Sicko is Ailing

David Hogberg dusts off his abacus and assesses Sicko's box office haul. Short take:

[Sicko] premiered in 441 theaters and grossed $4.5 million for an average theater gross of about $10,200. That was good enough for 9th place... His previous film Fahrenheit 9/11 premiered in 868 theaters in its opening weekend and grossed $23.9 million, for an average theater gross of about $27,560. Relative to his last film, Sicko is a bit of a dud.

Having been stuck in the political media trenches for the publicity campaigns of both films, I have some theories. Fahrenheit 9/11 was sold as a gut-busting satire and as an expose that would push stories you hadn't heard before (which turned out to be the dull Saudi Arabia sections). It had an unbeatable hype vehicle: Disney refused to distribute the film and Moore got to run around crying censorship as he lined up a new distributor. Moore's celebrity was absolutely burning up: He'd won the Oscar for Bowling for Columbine only a year before the Fahrenheit hype began and relished in the controversy, giving big-ticket speeches, hitting the campaign trail for Wesley Clark. After the election and before Sicko he retreated from the public sphere. Maybe it was a preventive measure to keep him from becoming overexposed, a lefty agit-prop Scott Baio. More likely it was because he was exhausted by the attention.

Was a movie about health care destined to be less successful than a movie about the 43rd president released in the heat of an election year? Oh, probably.

Reason's own Michael C. Moynihan reviewed Sicko.

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  • ||

    More likely it was because Burger King started up their 2 burgers + 2 fries for $2 special.

  • ||

    It's over folks. You can all go home.

    Crimethink has won the thread.

  • ||

    I suppose when Kobe Bryant scores 60 points in a game there will be those saying, "yeah, that's not bad, but really disappointing compared to when he scored 81!"

  • ||

    $23.9 million = 47.8 million burgers and 47.8 million fries. mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

    But then what's for dinner?

  • ||

    Dan T, you're missing the point. Kobe Bryant doesn't have any America-hating issues that we're aware of.

  • ||

    Colonel, your math is screwed up. it's $23.9 million of each.

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    On the other hand, Sicko certainly is getting a great deal of free media.

    If this film was such a non-event, I doubt we'd be seeing the full-court press the conservative media is putting on it.

  • ||

    Observe, Bowling for Columbine's domestic opening weekend was just over $200,000, or so says box-office mojo

  • ||

    Why can't Burger King make their fries more like McDonald's? It can't be an intellectual property right issue, can it? Just admit they make them better and blatently copy their recipie. And take it one step further and use animal fat, like Mickey D's used to do. They do that, the 2 Burger 2 Fries $2 promotion becaomes a sensation, and Sicko would have gone straight to DVD.

  • ||

    joe,

    And if the Iraq war wasn't a vital front in the war on terror, the terrorists wouldn't be there. [/sarc]

  • ||

    More seriously, I think conservatives would have a big beef with Moore even if he made a movie about Eskimo art.

  • ||

    "conservatives would have a big beef with Moore"

    Probably not, the big beef is $3.69

  • ||

    $3.69 for a Burger King sandwich is NOT fiscally responsible.

  • ||

    A quick Googling reveals that Sicko's budget was only $9 million and that industry experts say it needs to gross about $20 million to meet expectations.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    I didn't RTFA, but the more interesting question is whether the movie will "have legs." Sicko opened against Live Free or Die Hard, which contrary to many expectations is really a damned good action movie. Then came Ratatouille, which understandably drew much of the weekend movie crowd, especially people with kids. Most movie fans won't go see two movies in the same weekend, so the issue is going to be what Sicko's box office grosses look like three weeks out and beyond. By then, word-of-mouth plays a much bigger role.

  • stickman||

    Sorry, I stopped reading after crimethink's weak-assed insult of Moore's predilection for fast food.

  • ||

    Huh?

  • ||

    DAR -
    I think you're confusing potential audiences. There's no way that the Ratatouille audience is going to see Sicko, at least not with the kids in tow.
    Live Free or Die Hard isn't artsy enough for Sicko audiences.

    Maybe some of Sicko's lack in box office success comes at the hands of 24 hour news networks who are more than happy to spew the same unchecked "facts" by interviewing "experts" and all that garbage about the same topic. It's not a controversial topic anymore ("both" parties seem to be headed toward national health care), so the movie isn't as attractive in that sense.

  • ||

    grossed $4.5 million
    It just shows that even ugly and grossly obese people can get rich in Hollywood if they're sleazy enough.

    What a country!

  • ||

    Maybe some of Sicko's lack in box office success comes at the hands of 24 hour news networks who are more than happy to spew the same unchecked "facts" by interviewing "experts" and all that garbage about the same topic. It's not a controversial topic anymore ("both" parties seem to be headed toward national health care), so the movie isn't as attractive in that sense.

    True, plus media coverage of the film has been so comprehensive I feel like I've already seen it.

  • ||

    Live Free or Die Hard isn't artsy enough for Sicko audiences.

    Well that's an incorrect generalization.

    My wife and I want to see both of those movies.

    Lots of our friends do too.

  • ||

    Farenheit 911 was an outlier. It made $120 million; only six other documentaries have topped $10 million.

    Might as well point out that compared to Titanic, the Spiderman films have been duds.

  • ||

    True, plus media coverage of the film has been so comprehensive I feel like I've already seen it.

    haha... sad but true.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Reinmoose:

    I understand your point, but movie audiences overlap, so the question during an opening weekend isn't necessarily what one movie do they want to see but which of several do they want (or do their kids want) to see immediately. Liberals have kids and, whether they admit it or not, like action movies, too. The core Moore fans are the ones who opted to see his film first.

  • ||

    I saw Sicko a couple of weeks ago at a preview, and when I saw the advertising that came out this week I wondered if I'd seen the same movie.

    The ads are all "Hilarious!" and "A Laff Riot!", but while the film has funny moments, in the typical Michael Moore style, it ain't a laff riot, and selling it that way is bound to lead to disappointments.

    Yes, he cherry picks and yes, Cuba is the most egregious, but damned if I didn't come away upset, and as ashamed of this country as any time in the recent past.

  • ed||

    Looks like America's appetite for a documentary about health care is, well, not all that healthy.

    Does this mean health care is not America's Number One Issue? Now I'm really confused. Is Speaker Nancy lying to me? Somebody tell me what to think.

  • ||

    Don't you think that one big reason for the decline in Moore's movie attendance is because the public has learned how unreliable his facts are?

  • ||

    Proud to say, I have never paid a dime to watch any of MM's films.

    I did shell out $20 to see Ratatouille this weekend, worth every penny. Not as good as The Incredibles, but a fine richly textured film.

  • ||

    Yes, he cherry picks and yes, Cuba is the most egregious, but damned if I didn't come away upset, and as ashamed of this country as any time in the recent past.

    The secret is that Michael Moore is really, really good at making this kind of movie.

    Perhaps Reason and its readers should make an offer to Moore to produce a pro-libertarian documentary. Everybody would make money and it would help the cause quite a bit.

  • Roland||

    Misleading article.

    Sicko is 9th in overall GROSS box office. But it is only out in 442 theatres. Its per theatre average is $10,240. That would place it 2nd among current movies in per theatre average.

    Hardly a dud.

    Source: http://www.boxofficemojo.com/weekend/chart/

  • Shut-in||

    I thought Sicko was an autobiography.
    I should get out Moore.

  • ||

    Perhaps Reason and its readers should make an offer to Moore to produce a pro-libertarian documentary.

    I think I'd rather fund Bullshit!: The Movie.

  • ||

    Also worth noting is that even in somewhat limited initial release, it had the second highest opening gross of any documentary ever, surpassed only by Fahrenheit 911. My wife and I saw it last night, and we both think it's terrific, despite showing the private sector doesn't necessarily do everything better.

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    PS. My wife and I live in Canada, though she's originally from Minnesota. Having experienced both health care systems, she definitely prefers the Canadian model.

  • ||

    I think I'd rather fund Bullshit!: The Movie.

    Except that people tend to hate Penn Gillette more than they hate Michael Moore (and it's not because of ideology).

    I don't get why, but every time I mention him they say "that annoying big guy with the silent buddy?? -- I hate that fucking guy."

    One of my friends has Showtime On-Demand and I recommended we watch Bullshit, and as soon as the people in the room say Gillette they were like "oh fuck this...turn this dickhead off"

    It was weird.

  • ||

    This article was not well researched. Sicko had a fantastic opening for a documentary.

    Whats not mentioned is that SICKO went from 31 last week to 9 this week. It also had the 3rd highest per screen this weekend and more than doubled expected weekend revenues.

    As for being a dud next to Fahrenheit 911.. uh uh, 2nd only to his own creative genius!! SICKO had the 2nd best opening weekend for a documentary..

    I tried to see the movie in the one theater it is showing SOLD OUT! ALL THREE DAYS!!

    I am sure glad they plan on releasing it to another 200 theaters on Tuesday (tomorrow) and more in the coming weeks!

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    It's nothing but misleading propaganda on the merits of socialized medicine. I hope not too many people are fooled by it. I hope he's mostly just preaching to the choir.

  • Timothy||

    Well, it's nice to see lefty nitpickers from Kos instead of righty nitpickers from RedState for a change.

    Weigel is obviously a shill for big nit.

  • ||

    "I tried to see the movie in the one theater it is showing SOLD OUT! ALL THREE DAYS!!"

    I guess that means it's raining in Madison.

  • ||

    What is it about Moore and Al Gore that makes for terribly argued Reason posts? Are they actually oblivious to the fact (or just hope most of their readers are ingorant, which may be the case) that Farenheit 9/11 was a serious outlier for documentaries, and that Sicko's take was crazy good for a documentary? Geez, froth at the mouth at the guy's ideas, but to stick your head in the sand and scream "and noone likes him" is just pathetic...

  • ||

    Those crazy facts:
    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/genres/chart/?id=documentary.htm
    Remember, as DW notes Sicko's opening bank was 4.5 mil. Compare and see...

  • ||

    Not to mention it's getting 90%+ favorable reviews. Hollywood loves Michael Moore.

  • Bagger||

    stickman wins the thread.

  • D.A. Ridgely||

    Ken, I don't think those numbers are adjusted for inflation, so I'm not sure what they are supposed to prove.

    Anyway, yeah, there's some knee jerking among some Reasonoids about Moore and, yeah, the box office of Sicko is much ado about nothing. It will make money in theatrical release and even more money when it goes to DVD. You can argue forever whether Moore makes "real" documentaries, or whether documentaries ever were objective or scrupulously researched and fair to alternative points of view, or whether this is just one more example of the relentless overlapping of news and entertainment and blah, blah, blah. But I'll stick to my original claim; namely, it's simply too soon to tell whether, by Moore's own standards, this movie is going to be a commercial success or not.

  • ||

    My point is regardless of how well it does or doesn't do, the point is, it's misleading information. Moore makes the assertion that 18 million people will die because they have no health insurance. How does he know that. Also, he talks up Cuba's health system as being better than the US's, even though Cuba is rated lower than the US on the same list he points to when he points out the US being rated lower than other countries. Those other countries are rated higher overall than the US because of lower overall costs. Not mentioned is that the lower costs are the result of rationing. He makes no mention that the US health system is #1 regarding patient satisfaction. Largely because we don't have the long waiting lists caused by rationing and we don't have the low ratios of doctors to patients that other countries have. In other words, we don't have to spend as much time in waiting rooms and the doctors are able to spend more time with us.

  • Ms Johnson||

    I don't really care for Michael Moore. But the most likely explanation for its relatively lackluster performance is that concerns a subject that the American people - in their infinite banality and apathy - can't muster the energy long enough to actually think about.

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    I'm in the "amazed it's doing so well" camp.

    Frankly, most people go to movies to be entertained. Only a fraction of the population finds documentaries entertaining. Thus, the millions it is raking in demonstrate a pretty high rate of penetration of the number of people actually interested in the movie.

    Of course, I disagree with his main thesis - that government rationing of health-care is a good idea. I can't however deny the relative popularity of his movies.

  • ||

    "18 million people will die because they have no health insurance."

    Actually, everybody will die, regardless of their insured status.

  • ||

    People hate Penn & Teller? Which people?

  • ||

    People hate Penn & Teller? Which people?

    Not Teller -- Just Penn.

    People I know, people I love, people I work with, people I am acquainted with.

    I tried to get people I know (friends, family co-workers) to watch "Identity" as well and they saw him and were like "uhmm...no thanks -- this guy annoys me".

  • ||

    I tried to get people I know (friends, family co-workers) to watch "Identity" as well and they saw him and were like "uhmm...no thanks -- this guy annoys me".

    But yet, Michael Moore, who patronizes, condescends and just flat out lies to his audience, draws 'em in.

    Say what you will about Penn Jillete, but the guy is honest and has integrity, 2 qualities seriously lacking in Moore.

  • ||

    ChicagoTom,

    You need to persuade these people of the error in their ways. Penn rules.

  • ||

    Jake, I saw the film today, and you are wrong:
    Cuba is directly above the US on the list
    He says 18,000 will die
    It could be that past American health care eye and ear treatments have failed you comrade...

  • brec||

    I haven't seen the movie, but in the trailer's brief shot of "the list," which I presume is from WHO, the U.S was #37 and Cuba was #39. Or at least, having read articles (here?) about the movie's Cuba portion, I noticed that Cuba was two below the U.S.

  • just asking||

    It's for sure rather cute and quite entertaining to watch but still -- why are the regulars on this board so eager to feed a stupid little troll like that Ken character? Is simply ignoring him really that hard?

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