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Will Palin Doc "The Undefeated" Be Defeated at the Box Office?

by Anthony Kaufman
July 15, 2011 1:33 AM
5 Comments
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Opening in 10 cities across the nation from sea to shining sea today -- from Orange County, CA to Orlando, FL -- "The Undefeated' is poised to break out big at the box office in limited release, further fomenting Palin fever among Tea Party members and right-wing fans.

The film has encountered scathing reviews, a 34 out of 100 on Metacritic.com, with the L.A. Times calling it "a troop-rallying campaign infomercial as imagined by Michael Bay: hero-worshipping, crescendo-edited at a dizzying pace, thunderously repetitive and its own worst enemy as a two-hour, talking-points briefing."

But such negative criticism from the "mainstream media" should only inflame the passions of Palinistas, and confirm their stereotypes of the left-wing press, fueling further ticket sales.

I wouldn't be surprised if most of the first weekend's shows were sold out. Opening weekend anticipation is high among Palin's devoted followers, and a similar initial excitement greeted the Tea Party embraced "Atlas Shrugged" film a few weeks ago. When "Atlas Shrugged" opened on a much wider 299 screens in April, the film had a formidable $5,640 per-theater average, with an overall weekend gross of nearly $1.7 million. But the "Atlas Shrugged" buzz quickly fell off in its second weekend, and the film's average crashed in subsequent weekends.

I suspect "The Undefeated" will follow a similar trajectory, but distributors Cinedigm Entertainment Group are keeping things small, surely to tout a mammoth per-theater average as it crawls around the country.

I can already see the Sunday evening press releases that will proclaim the film's per-theater average as record-breaking. For comparison, Michael Moore's "Sicko" currently holds the record for the highest grossing per-theater average when it opened on one screen and earned $69,000. A better comparison might be Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," which opened in 8 theaters, and came away with a $26,143 average. For other context: When the Oprah-supported "Precious" opened in 18 theaters, it had an astounding average of $104,025.

But the proof of the success of "The Undefeated" will take much longer to determine than opening weekend. Either way, the highly targeted release--borrowing from the DIY-style grassroots city-by-city campaigns long established by indie companies--is a smart move for a film that has a strong and devoted niche. Palin fans will be paying up not to see a movie, but to support their candidate. Which, of course, is fine by producers Victory Film Group, distrib Cinedigm and exhib AMC Theaters. Where there's an audience, there's a dollar.

As director Stephen Bannon told me in this Wall Street Journal Online interview, "Let’s be brutally frank: There’s not that much great product for conservatives. I’m a capitalist. We have to prove that there’s a market out there for this product. Look, Al Gore had $15 million in P&A from Paramount; Michael Moore had $15-20 from the Weinsteins [on "Fahrenheit 9/11"]. But social media has changed things. We have a couple of million dollars in P&A, and we’ll see how it does over time."

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5 Comments

  • cory | July 17, 2011 10:41 AMReply

    The LA Times newspaper interviews "The Undefeated" filmmaker Stephen Bannon about the film's opening success (link below):
    http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2011/07/sarah-palin-documentary-the-undefeated-opens-will-roll-out-to-other-cities.html

  • cory | July 17, 2011 10:40 AMReply

    According to PRNewswire.com, ARC Entertainment, the distributor for the documentary about Sarah Palin called "The Undefeated", the opening for the film has been stronger than expected (link below):
    http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/arc-entertainment-announces-strong-opening-for-the-undefeated-with-multiple-sold-out-runs-and-vocal-audience-support-125713108.html

  • Bonaire | July 17, 2011 6:53 AMReply

    Pacifcone why are you a troll here?

    The grifter did no such thing.

  • SMARTERTHANYOU | July 17, 2011 3:20 AMReply

    Wow, you were really on the mark here. Seems like "The Undefeated" will perform in theaters on par with Palin's campaigns outside Alaska.

  • Pacificone | July 16, 2011 4:10 AMReply

    Why is Palin hated so much? I went to the documentary and WOW! This dumb @#$#@*% woman took on big oil and won! We can't have that happening in the lower 48! So destroy, destroy, and destroy. Now I get it. Big oil got beat be a back country woman and it is payback time. What will it be . . . the good old boys club or someone who can actually take on the fat cats and win for the American people! Go see the documentary for yourself and decide.

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