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in Filmmaking
on Apr 27, 2008

As Tribeca‘s first weekend passes, most talk has been on the admission by Errol Morris that he paid — or paid the expences of (depending on what story you read) — some of the prison guards interviewed in his latest film, Standard Operating Procedure. But Anthony Kaufman raises a much more pressing question in a story on indieWIRE: “Can Standard Operating Procedure Break the Political Doc Deadlock?

Though it’s not just political docs that are in trouble, films that I and many others thought would take hold on audiences (My Kid Could Paint That, Zoo, Manda Bala) never took off, the political docs have taken the biggest hits.

An excerpt:

2008 duds include “Chicago 10” ($156,000), “Taxi to the Dark Side” ($248,200) and “Body of War” ($32,000). Morgan Spurlock’s “Where in the World is Osama Bin Laden?” opened in 102 theaters with a per-venue average of just $1,401 and dropped significantly this weekend. Compare that to the 41-theater debut of “Super Size Me,” which garnered a $12,601 average, one can see how different the landscape is nowadays.

“Everyone is uninterested,” said Roadside Attractions’ Howard Cohen, who worked on the release of “Super Size Me” as well as this year’s “Chicago 10.” Even in markets where Oscar-nominated director Brett Morgen’s super-energized retelling of the Chicago 1968 rabblerousers got four-star reviews, such as Washington D.C. (“the first great film of 2008,” wrote the Washington Post), audiences were “absolutely indifferent,” explained Cohen.

According to Variety, SOP grossed an estimated $14,916 from two theaters for a per screen average of $7,458.

There are a few more political docs in the pipeline over the summer, but what may get docs out of its funk are titles like Sundance favorites American Teen, which follows the senior year of a group of high school students in Indiana, and Man On Wire, which recounts tightrope walker Philippe Petit‘s illegal high-wire routine between the World Trade Center towers in the ’70s. Two superb docs without a hint of war.

Though I have been wrong before…

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