Dracil’s BlogJournal

April 20, 2008

Analyzing Expelled’s Performance

Note: These were based on the weekend estimates. My Updated Analysis of Expelled’s Performance entry has the latest numbers from the weekend.

I’ll begin with the raw data for money.

Estimated opening weekend performance revenue: $3,153,000
Theaters it opened in: 1052
Average revenue per theater: $2997
Rank for the weekend: #9

I have to say, that looks pretty ok. Not quite the smackdown they were hoping for, but respectable enough. Let’s look at how it performed in its genres.

Worldwide political documentary gross ranking: #8/86
Worldwide documentary gross ranking: #26/527
Worldwide christian gross ranking: #18/62

Hey, pretty good! But the gross ranking is unfair to Expelled since it’s only been out for 3 days, compared to how long the other films have been out. So let’s use a fairer metric. We’ll use the average revenue/theater on opening weekend. Why is this metric important? Because if it does poorly on opening weekend, the theaters aren’t going to want to keep showing it.

I took the data off boxofficemojo and wrote a small Python script to calculate and sort it. And here’s the results:

Worldwide political documentary opening weekend average theater revenue: #50/86
Worldwide documentary opening weekend average theater revenue: #349/527
Worldwide christian opening weekend average theater revenue: #28/62

Wow, that’s quite a drop despite the fact we used a fairer metric. Suddenly those numbers don’t look nearly as impressive. In fact, it looks rather horrible. Its performance relative to other Christian films is actually rather telling, given that the American population is 82% Christian (and 1% Jewish), which is the main demographic who might be persuaded to watch this film. So what exactly happened here that caused its rankings to drop? While undoubtedly a source of pride for the producers, having the largest number of theaters on opening weekend also meant a greater normalization effect when it was brought in line with the rest of the films in its genre.

As a bonus, since I already went to the trouble of writing the script, here are the top 5 performers in each genre for average theater revenue on opening weekend if you are curious:
Political documentary:
1 $70332 An Inconvenient Truth
2 $68969 Sicko
3 $34000 Your Mommy Kills Animals
4 $27558 Fahrenheit 9/11
5 $27125 Control Room

1 $70332 An Inconvenient Truth
2 $68969 Sicko
3 $60949 The Aristocrats
4 $35637 Unzipped
5 $34373 March of the Penguins

1 $27882 The Other Side of Heaven
2 $27554 The Passion of the Christ
3 $22823 The List (2007)
4 $18129 The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
5 $12648 The Celestine Prophecy

Of course, money is but one side of the coin. How well was it received by the people?

Rotten Tomatoes Critical Rating: 9% (2/23)
Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics Rating: 0% (0/10)
Rotten Tomatoes Community Rating: 54% (172 votes)
IMDB Rating: 3.6 (659 votes)
Boxofficemojo rating: B (148 votes)
Yahoo movies community rating: B (1445 votes)
Yahoo critics rating: N/A (None!)

If you look at the ratings given by the community on each site you’ll see that almost every vote is either the highest possible rating or the lowest possible rating. There is a definite ideological split. People who gave the film a high rating have been accusing people who gave it a low rating of not having seen the film. But that’s not necessarily true. Just look at the ratings the critics, who have definitely seen the movie, gave. Even the two “fresh” tomatoes on rotten tomatoes weren’t all that positive.

It’s interesting why there’s such a huge difference between IMDB and the other two sites. I suspect this is because the other two sites have a primarily US user base, who would’ve been able to see the film. People who’ve seen a film are much more likely to rate it (easily proven by how many movies you’ve rated that you’ve seen vs. haven’t seen), and people who’d see a controversial film like this are also more likely to give it a high rating. In other words, it’s a self-selecting biased population. That said, the controversial nature of the film does also bring out people who see the trailer, realize it’s the same tired arguments they’ve seen before, and give it a low rating based on that. Fair or not, I think people would usually rate a movie higher based on the trailer than the actual movie. Just think of how many times you thought a movie looked great from the trailer only to be disappointed when you saw the actual movie. Regardless, one thing we can conclude from this, the ratings for this movie are useless for fence sitters.

Assuming my two previous assumptions are correct (that people are voting based on their beliefs rather than the movie despite what they say, and there’s a domestic/foreign split amongst the different movie sites), this does not bode well for Expelled. Take a look at the following graph:

The US is pretty much near the bottom with regards to accepting evolution, with only Turkey being lower. That means this film is pretty much going to bomb if it leaves the US.

Lastly, I’d like to leave you with a couple complicating factors that muddles the analysis a little bit. I noticed over the weekend that there was a minor blackout of the film’s release on IMDB and Yahoo movies. While I don’t see any immediate explanation, I will roll my eyes at any conspiracy theorists claiming this is proof of the existence of Big Science. Another complicating factor is the bribery the producers engaged in to get people to watch the movie. Any ticket stubs (up to 500 tickets) a school turns in will get them anywhere between $5 to $10/ticket, and an extra $5000 to the school subjects the most students to this film. This is rather significant as the average ticket price is only $6.82. I don’t recall any other movie ever bribing people to watch the movie like this, so I would definitely take the numbers and claims of success by the producers with a dose of salt.



  1. considering that the budget of this film was around 3.5M, It will in the end be a success on regards to making more money than it was invested.

    However this is political propaganda. Success will not be measured by its producers on money.

    Comment by aegisofreason — April 20, 2008 @ 10:56 pm

  2. Indeed, you are probably correct on both counts. A figure I’ve seen tossed around is that only about 50% of the ticket sales will wind up in the movie producer’s pockets. But with DVD sales later, I’m sure they will make a profit.

    This was mostly done to show how well it’s actually doing compared to other films in its genre to counter the producers’ inevitable spin (which has already begun).

    Comment by dracil — April 20, 2008 @ 11:11 pm

  3. Oh, I am not giving criticism of your post. it goes to great lenght and detail, much more to the one i have in my blog. :)

    keep up the good work, we are going to need it after this movie.

    Comment by aegisofreason — April 20, 2008 @ 11:38 pm

  4. Thanks. :)

    Comment by dracil — April 20, 2008 @ 11:45 pm

  5. […] it’s not too much of a change from what I said earlier, though just barely missing that $3 million mark and officialy finishing last has got to hurt from […]

    Pingback by Updated Analysis of Expelled’s Performance « Dracil’s BlogJournal — April 21, 2008 @ 9:25 pm

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