Michael Moore’s new documentary “Capitalism: A Love Story,” opened nationally yesterday in 900 plus theaters after a limited engagement in just four theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The bi-coastal exclusive set the record for the year so far in per theater box office. The wide launch is now adding handsomely to the film’s success.
For Friday alone Capitalism earned $1.5 million, putting it in seventh place. The six movies ahead of it were all in two to three times as many theaters. Capitalism was the third highest earner on a per screen basis.
[Update 10/5/09: The full weekend take for Capitalism was $4.85 million. It took eighth place for the weekend. It was fourth on a per screen basis]
Three months ago I made a prediction that Capitalism would draw a larger audience than the Fox-sponsored Tea Baggings. So how did I do?
With ticket sales of $4.85 million, and an average ticket price of $7.18, it comes to about 675,000 tickets sold. That number is higher than any estimate of the Tax Day Tea Parties last April. In addition, the attendees of the 9/12 Tea Bagging in Washington were estimated to have been about 60,000 to 70,000. That estimate was provided unofficially by the DC Fire Department. There were other debunked estimates that went as high as 2 million, and they came with photo documentation. The only problem was that the photo was proven to be from a rally that took place over ten years prior. So if we throw out the ludicrous seven-figure fabrications, it would still take ten times the Fire Department’s numbers to approach (yet still fall short of) the audience for just one weekend of Capitalism’s attendance.
Conclusion? I was right! So what’s the significance of this foresight? It isn’t that I’m an uncommonly gifted observer of politics and media (well, not just that, anyway). As I wrote last June, the media made quite a spectacle of both the Tax Day Tea Baggings and the 9/12 event. The implication was that any public gathering that attracted such a crowd should be regarded as statement of the public’s mood. If that’s the case, and if Moore’s movie performs the same or better as an attraction, then wouldn’t that make this event at least as representative of the public mood as the Tea Parties were said to be? Wouldn’t that suggest that it deserves at least as much attention from Fox News and the rest of the media?
So far, Sean Hannity has not hosted a live, on location event with thousands of cheering Moore supporters. Glenn Beck has not assembled throngs of patriotic Americans who agree with Moore that our economic system is dangerously flawed. We haven’t even seen Griff Jenkins cheerleading for the film and riding along on bus tours promoting it. What’s more, the rest of the press is not treating this cinema sensation, that is outperforming the Fox-sponsored rallies by every measure, with equivalent resources and exposure.
The fact that Capitalism produced a bigger turnout than the Tea Parties should guide coverage of, not just the movie, but the issues underlying. It ought to inform the press corps that Americans are expressing their views through the free market by actually paying to align themselves with a political position that is woefully underrepresented in the media. It ought to put the lie to the claim that Tea Baggers were non-partisan opponents of reckless government spending. Were that true, they would be flocking to Moore’s movie which addresses the very issues they claimed to be so riled up about. Instead they are bashing the movie, without having even seen it.
Capitalism, the economic system, is demonstrating that Capitalism, the movie, is a far better gauge of where America is today than the lame tea socials that were so heavily promoted by Fox News and the rightist media. Despite not having anywhere near the promotional boost, or the free publicity from Fox, the movie is proving that Americans are far more interested in honesty and fairness in government than in pandering to the giant multinational corporations who got us into this mess in the first place. The Beck’s and O’Reilly’s and Hannity’s of the world pretend to be guardians of the people’s welfare, but in reality they are defenders of greed and deregulation and all of the worst faults of unbridled capitalism. When will the press recognize this and balance their coverage with reports on what the film’s success really means?
It’s is rather ironic that the success of the movie, in which Moore describes capitalism as “evil,” is also a demonstration of the free market voting for Moore’s perspective on free markets. God bless America.