Thursday, March 27, 2008

Is "Expelled" going to show up in any theaters on April 18?

[UPDATE (April 15, 2008): See the NCSE's "Expelled Exposed" website for a look at the deceptive tactics of the filmmakers and the real facts that they aren't showing you.]

[UPDATE (April 18, 2008): Further updates on "Expelled" theater counts, box office take, and ratings are here.]

"Expelled" was originally claimed to be opening in February 2008, and I recall seeing claims that it would be on 4,000 screens. Its website has subsequently been claiming an April 18 opening date ("in theatres nationwide"), and somewhere I've seen an estimate of about 1,000 screens. (UPDATE: This was said by John Sullivan, an "Expelled" producer, on the Expelled blog in December 2007, as the estimated screen count for a February 2008 release.) But for some reason, the film is not listed on April 2008 distribution schedules:
I only found it listed with an April 18 date at AOL's MovieFone, with no photo or trailer. Movieweb.com lists it with "To Be Announced 2008" as the release date. (UPDATE: It's also at movies.go.com with an April 18 release date, and a poll to grade the movie. It's polling at 85% "F," 11% "A," 2% "D," and 1% each for "B" and "C," with 474 votes.)

Is it really going to show in theaters at all on April 18? Or are they just going to continue with these "private screenings" and then go direct to DVD, suitable for church and homeschool distribution?

The distributor for the film is Rocky Mountain Pictures (formerly R.S. Entertainment) of Salt Lake City, UT, distributor for the following films:
  • Akira (1988, lots of distributors)
  • Carman: The Champion (made 2001, released 2 March 2001, grossed $1,743,863, $769,080 opening weekend)
  • Race to Space (2001, released 15 March 2001)
  • Megiddo: The Omega Code 2 (made 2001, released 21 September 2001, grossed $5,974,653, $1,573,454 opening weekend)
  • Manna from Heaven (made 2002, grossed $505,675, shown in 5 cities, made $5,340 opening weekend on 4 screens)
  • Elvira's Haunted Hills (made 2001, released 31 October 2002)
  • Luther (made 2003, released 30 October 2003, grossed $5,791,328, $908,446 opening weekend)
  • Unspeakable (made 2002, released 27 February 2004)
  • End of the Spear (2005, released 20 January 2006, grossed $11,703,287, $4,281,388 opening weekend)
These guys are clearly not a blockbuster powerhouse of distributors--their biggest film ever was back in 1988 when they were one of many distributors, they specialize in small independent films, mostly "family films" and often with an explicitly Christian theme, and they have rarely seen their films have an opening weekend of over $1,000,000. The two partners in Rocky Mountain Pictures are Ronald C. Rodgers and Randy Slaughter. Rodgers got his start in film with Sunn Classic Pictures in 1968, which made and distributed movies in the seventies and eighties like bad documentaries about Bigfoot and the Loch Ness Monster, The Bermuda Triangle, psychics, space aliens, conspiracy theories, and Noah's Ark, several of which were written by David W. Balsiger. Balsiger was the ghost author of several fabricated autobiographies, such as those of alleged Ark-finder Fernand Navarra, phony ex-Satanist Mike Warnke, and phony faith healer Morris Cerullo. (See my 1993 Skeptic magazine article on George Jammal's Noah's Ark hoax, which Balsiger helped foist upon the American public along with a whole slew of bogus claims.) Slaughter has had a more mainstream career with bigger studios and distributors and working for a Texas theater chain.

"End of the Spear" was financed by Philip Anschutz, founder and former head of Qwest Communications who also funded "The Chronicles of Narnia" (and has also been a contributor to the Discovery Institute). "End of the Spear" received some extra publicity because lead actor Chad Allen, who plays the lead in the film, came out as gay. (He told the producers before his contract was signed in 2003, when he came out publicly, and they did the right thing and continued with him in the project anyway). I suspect "Expelled" will have trouble doing anywhere near as well as "End of the Spear," which appears to be the best Rocky Mountain Pictures has done to date.

I'll offer five predictions for "Expelled"--if it opens in theaters at all on April 18, it will (1) be on fewer than 500 800 screens, (2) will have an initial weekend box office of less than $2 million, with (3) a per-screen take of less than $2,500, (4) won't break the top ten despite it being a slow opening week, and (5) will make less than $10 million in box office take by the end of 2008 (though it may make more than that through DVD sales).

Note that Philip Anschutz owns the Regal Entertainment Group, which Wikipedia says is "the largest theater chain in North America" with "6,423 screens in 529 locations in 41 U.S. states." He may well push the film, but there's no way he's going to allow it to get in the way of making profit, but I'll adjust my prediction (1) to be fewer than 800 screens on the assumption that Anschutz might put the film into each of his theaters. (UPDATE: Chez Jake has found and commented below that Anschutz is only showing "Expelled" in 141 of his 529 locations, which he suggests indicates a 27% level of confidence in the film by Anschutz.)

(For my previous comments about a film's opening weekend, see my blog post on the film "Untraceable." In the comments there, I offered this bet to the film's insiders who showed up at my blog to defend the film: "How about a deal--if it gets a 'cream of the crop' freshness percentage above 70% at rottentomatoes.com (say, by a week after release, when there are at least a dozen or so reviews), I'll agree to watch it, if you'll agree on a percentage of below 30% to post here that you were wrong, and it really does suck. Anywhere in between, we can agree to disagree." Needless to say, I didn't have to see that movie, as it ended up with a "freshness" rating of 15%.)

UPDATE (March 28, 2008): Using Reed Esau's excellent suggestion of using the theater locator on the Expelled website, here's the current number of theaters where it's planned to be showing per state:

AK: 1
AL: 15
AR: 10
AZ: 5
CA: 52
CO: 10
CT: 3
DC: 0
DE: 0
FL: 51
GA: 11
HI: 3
IA: 6
ID: 6
IN: 19
IL: 21
KS: 4
KY: 6
LA: 2
MA: 0
MD: 0
ME: 0
MI: 11
MN: 7
MO: 6
MS: 3
MT: 5
NC: 4
ND: 1
NE: 1
NH: 1
NJ: 0
NM: 2
NV: 6
NY: 2
OH: 9
OK: 5
OR: 6
PA: 11
RI: 0
SC: 5
SD: 1
TN: 17
TX: 62
UT: 3
VA: 3
VT: 0
WA: 16
WI: 17
WV: 5
WY: 1

Total U.S. theaters: 435

UPDATE (March 28, 2008, 6:00 p.m.): The numbers have changed a bit:

AK: 2 (up from 1)
AL: 17 (up from 15)
AR: 9 (down from 10)
AZ: 7 (up from 5)
CT: 2 (down from 3)
DC: 1 (up from 0)
FL: 50 (down from 51)
GA: 17 (up from 11)
IA: 7 (up from 6)
IL: 18 (down from 21)
KS: 7 (up from 4)
KY: 7 (up from 6)
LA: 6 (up from 2)
MD: 7 (up from 0)
MI: 10 (down from 11)
MN: 10 (up from 7)
MO: 16 (up from 6)
MS: 4 (up from 3)
MT: 3 (down from 5)
NC: 17 (up from 4)
NH: 0 (down from 1)
NM: 1 (down from 2)
NY: 1 (down from 2)
OH: 13 (up from 9)
OK: 8 (up from 5)
OR: 7 (up from 6)
PA: 6 (down from 11)
SC: 10 (up from 5)
TN: 16 (down from 17)
TX: 61 (down from 62)
VA: 16 (up from 3)
WI: 14 (down from 17)
WV: 1 (down from 5)

All the others have remained the same. That's a net increase of 55 theaters to a new total of 490.

UPDATE (March 31, 2008, 2:45 p.m. PDT):

AK: 1
AL: 20
AR: 12
AZ: 8
CA: 60
CO: 11
CT: 3
DC: 1
DE: 3
FL: 58
GA: 19
HI: 3
IA: 9
ID: 6
IN: 20
IL: 23
KS: 10
KY: 7
LA: 6
MA: 0
MD: 8
ME: 0
MI: 20
MN: 13
MO: 18
MS: 6
MT: 5
NC: 35
ND: 2
NE: 1
NH: 1
NJ: 3
NM: 5
NV: 6
NY: 12
OH: 19
OK: 9
OR: 7
PA: 27
RI: 0
SC: 16
SD: 1
TN: 23
TX: 63
UT: 3
VA: 24
VT: 0
WA: 19
WI: 19
WV: 5
WY: 1

New total: 651 theaters.

UPDATE (April 4, 2008, 7:13 a.m. PDT):

AK: 1
AL: 20
AR: 12
AZ: 17 (up from 8)
CA: 65 (up from 60)
CO: 11
CT: 5 (up from 3)
DC: 1
DE: 3
FL: 60 (up from 58)
GA: 29 (up from 19)
HI: 3
IA: 9
ID: 7 (up from 6)
IN: 22 (up from 20)
IL: 29 (up from 23)
KS: 11 (up from 10)
KY: 10 (up from 7)
LA: 12 (up from 6)
MA: 2 (up from 0)
MD: 11 (up from 8)
ME: 1 (up from 0)
MI: 27 (up from 20)
MN: 23 (up from 13)
MO: 20 (up from 18)
MS: 8 (up from 6)
MT: 5
NC: 38 (up from 35)
ND: 2
NE: 4 (up from 1)
NH: 2 (up from 1)
NJ: 8 (up from 3)
NM: 8 (up from 5)
NV: 6
NY: 18 (up from 12)
OH: 24 (up from 19)
OK: 13 (up from 9)
OR: 11 (up from 7)
PA: 31 (up from 27)
RI: 0
SC: 18 (up from 16)
SD: 1
TN: 28 (up from 23)
TX: 75 (up from 63)
UT: 3
VA: 31 (up from 24)
VT: 0
WA: 23 (up from 19)
WI: 20 (up from 19)
WV: 6 (up from 5)
WY: 1

New total: 795 theaters (up 144 since March 31).

UPDATE (April 6, 2008, 12:45 p.m. PDT):

I checked again after seeing Kevin Miller claiming that the film is now set to open on 1,000 screens. There must be several theaters planning to show it on multiple screens, then.

AK: 2 (up from 1)
AL: 20
AR: 12
AZ: 17
CA: 64 (down from 65)
CO: 11
CT: 5
DC: 1
DE: 3
FL: 60
GA: 29
HI: 3
IA: 9
ID: 7
IN: 22
IL: 29
KS: 11
KY: 10
LA: 12
MA: 2
MD: 11
ME: 1
MI: 27
MN: 23
MO: 20
MS: 8
MT: 5
NC: 38
ND: 2
NE: 4
NH: 2
NJ: 8
NM: 8
NV: 6
NY: 18
OH: 24
OK: 14 (up from 13)
OR: 12 (up from 11)
PA: 31
RI: 0
SC: 18
SD: 1
TN: 28
TX: 74 (down from 75)
UT: 3
VA: 31
VT: 0
WA: 23
WI: 20
WV: 6
WY: 1

New total: 796 theaters (up by one theater since Friday).

UPDATE (April 12, 2008, 8:16 a.m. MST):

AK: 3 (up from 2)
AL: 23 (up from 20)
AR: 12
AZ: 18 (up from 17)
CA: 105 (up from 64)
CO: 19 (up from 11)
CT: 7 (up from 5)
DC: 1
DE: 3
FL: 79 (up from 60)
GA: 38 (up from 29)
HI: 4 (up from 3)
IA: 12 (up from 9)
ID: 7
IN: 28 (up from 22)
IL: 46 (up from 29)
KS: 12 (up from 11)
KY: 13 (up from 10)
LA: 14 (up from 12)
MA: 12 (up from 2)
MD: 14 (up from 11)
ME: 1
MI: 36 (up from 27)
MN: 25 (up from 23)
MO: 20
MS: 8
MT: 5
NC: 45 (up from 38)
ND: 2
NE: 4
NH: 3 (up from 2)
NJ: 24 (up from 8)
NM: 8
NV: 9 (up from 6)
NY: 26 (up from 18)
OH: 35 (up from 24)
OK: 14
OR: 17 (up from 12)
PA: 32 (up from 31)
RI: 1 (up from 0)
SC: 20 (up from 18)
SD: 2 (up from 1)
TN: 28
TX: 80 (up from 74)
UT: 14 (up from 3)
VA: 33 (up from 31)
VT: 1 (up from 0)
WA: 30 (up from 23)
WI: 20
WV: 8 (up from 6)
WY: 1

New total: 1022. They now have theaters in every state, and clearly have more than 1,000 screens, falsifying my prediction (1). At this point, I think my prediction (4) may also be falsified, but prediction (3) has probably become more likely since their audience will be diluted across a larger number of theaters and screens.

UPDATE (April 14, 2008): "Expelled" has finally shown up in the "opening" category at Rotten Tomatoes (and was never listed as "upcoming"), with a 0% fresh (i.e., 100% rotten) rating. The only review counted at the moment is Variety's review.

UPDATE (April 16, 2008, 7:00 p.m. MST):

AK: 2 (down from 3)
AL: 23
AR: 12
AZ: 19 (up from 18)
CA: 110 (up from 105)
CO: 19
CT: 9 (up from 7)
DC: 1
DE: 3
FL: 81 (up from 79)
GA: 42 (up from 38)
HI: 5 (up from 4)
IA: 12
ID: 7
IN: 29 (up from 28)
IL: 47 (up from 46)
KS: 12
KY: 13
LA: 14
MA: 16 (up from 12)
MD: 13 (down from 12)
ME: 1
MI: 37 (up from 36)
MN: 24 (down from 25)
MO: 22 (up from 20)
MS: 8
MT: 5
NC: 43 (down from 45)
ND: 3 (up from 2)
NE: 4
NH: 4 (up from 3)
NJ: 26 (up from 24)
NM: 8
NV: 9
NY: 27 (up from 26)
OH: 36 (up from 35)
OK: 14
OR: 16 (down from 17)
PA: 34 (up from 32)
RI: 1
SC: 20
SD: 2
TN: 28
TX: 81 (up from 80)
UT: 14
VA: 33
VT: 1
WA: 31 (up from 30)
WI: 19 (down from 20)
WV: 8
WY: 1

New total: 1,049 theaters, up from 1,022 despite a few states losing a theater here and there. (The big drop will come next week.) Reviews are starting to show up at Rotten Tomatoes; it's currently scoring one positive review and six negative, for a 14% freshness rating and an average rating of 2.8/10.

UPDATE (April 18, 2008, 8:10 a.m. MST): It's opening day, and further updates on theater counts, ratings, and box office will be posted here (and won't include state-by-state breakdowns). The-Numbers.com reports that "Expelled"'s opening theater count is three more theaters than Wednesday's total, 1,052.

17 comments:

Reed said...

Their Theater Locator may give an indication of the screen count for the 18th.

For example, there are 10 theaters in CO and 5 in AZ.

Eamon Knight said...

My prediction: Expelled won't ever see big-screen release; it will go straight to DVD in Christian bookstores. Mathis & Co will blame Big Science and the Darwinist Cabal (headed by Dawkins and PZ) for trashing it by running a smear campaign.

Ron said...

Using the theater locator, the current count for PA is 6 (20:32 EDT). Are they losing theaters that fast?

Jessica said...

NY seems to be down from 2 to just 1 now (21:23 EDT)

Jessica said...

And PA has lost about half its locations too, though MN seems to have gained a few...

Jim Lippard said...

I've updated the numbers... while some states have lost theaters, there has been a net gain of 55 theaters nationwide.

Reed said...

I hope you wrote a script to capture this data. :^)

It'll be interesting to see how this number fluctuates as the 18th approaches.

Chez Jake said...

Hi Jim,

I just did a little research on how much Anschutz is pushing Expelled! As of Sunday night, he only has it booked in 141 of those 529 theaters. We'll be generous and call that 27% confidence in the film.

Jim Lippard said...

Chez Jake: I'd say that's a fair assessment! Thanks for checking that out, I'll add an update to the post referring to your comment.

Chez Jake said...

I'm back with more data. As of this morning, Expelled! is *not* being shown in 5 of the 10 most populous cities in the US -- NYC, LA, Chicago, Philly, and San Jose.

Also not being shown in 12 of the top 25 cities, and not shown in 36 of the top 100 cities by population.

Chez Jake said...

And, BTW, that means that 49.75% of the population in the top 100 cities are not being exposed to Expelled!

Rich said...

When it does show up go to boxofficemojo.com for real numbers (including direct to DVD).

Ken said...

It is being promoted by conservative Christian in New Zealand. However, they don't know of any local screenings.
The publicity company for Expelled tells me that no screenings are planned for New Zealand.

Ken McKnight said...

Has anyone else noticed that whatever happens with Expelled this weekend it is going to be buried in two major news stories, the Pennsylvania primary and the arrival of the pope in the United States. The news coverage from Friday until at least Wednesday is going to be pretty much wall-to-wall politics and papists. Another marketing coup from the brilliant minds behind Expelled. However, I'm sure Dembski will soon be blogging that they meant to do that, and--like all those negative reviews--it will somehow result in increased ticket sales!

Wedgie World said...

Check out the recently launched website Expelled Exposed which discusses the many flaws in the movie "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed"

More information at PandasThumb

Jim Lippard said...

Wedgie World: Yes, I've already updated the top of this post with a link to ExpelledExposed.com. It should definitely be perused by anyone who views the film.

Ben said...

Just for fun I ran a map and per-capita scatter on today's showing numbers over at Many Eyes. Have a look.

http://www.palewire.com/2008/04/20/creationism-george-clooney/