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Waiting For Box Office Receipts

Conservative edu-blogger Rick Hess at Ed Week:

The movie [Waiting for Superman] is now finishing its theatrical run, dribbling out of the last few theaters. How big a splash did it make? As of December 13, the flick had done $6.4 million in the box office. That translates to something like 800,000 tickets, and makes it the 143rd ranked movie in the past 365 days. It finished third in domestic receipts among 2010 documentaries, trailing Babies and Oceans. All-time — in what had to be dispiriting for Guggenheim, director of the very successful An Inconvenient Truth Waiting For Superman ranks 19th in domestic box office sales among documentaries (and, unlike with Babies or Oceans, the international appeal of WFS is almost nonexistent). Its $6.4 million haul lagged the domestic performance of top-performing documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 ($119.2 million), Tupac: Resurrection (#16 at $7.7 million), and Babies (#17 at $7.3 million).

What Hess did not mention is that a great deal more money was spent on promoting Waiting For Superman (to cite just one example, millions of education dollars in the Ford Foundation were diverted for this purpose) than it received in box office receipts. Somewhat ironic, one might conclude, for a movie that promotes the infallibility of the marketplace in education, and lionizes the evangelists of laissez-faire markets.

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