The complete details aren't yet out yet, but Politico reports that "The Undefeated," the recently-released documentary about former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, will be hitting theaters in more cities soon. According to ARC Entertainment, the film's distributor, the wider release is scheduled to occur later this month.
While various critics had an unfavorable view of the film, audiences in some target markets responded positively. According to the distributor, in Phoenix, Atlanta, Denver and Indianapolis the film needed to be moved to a larger screen so that crowds could be accommodated. Critics, though have questioned whether or not "The Undefeated" was a flop -- or a success.
For example, CNN's Richard Corliss isn't a fan:
The movie may tempt even the most ardent conservatives to emulate their idol's tenure as governor and walk out halfway through.
The Hollywood Reporter's Todd McCarthy agrees:
"A partisan piece stitched together using positive sound bites about Sarah Palin that will get media attention simply for its subject, though it isn't a must-see film by any means."
While reviewers will have their opinions, the real question is: Has the film been successful, financially speaking?
As Politico notes, most documentaries are only released in New York or Los Angeles and in specialized art theaters. "The Undefeated" takes a more non-traditional path, as it has been released on screens in AMC Theaters (a well-known national change). Phil Contrino, editor of Boxoffice.com says, “In the most basic sense, anytime a documentary is selling out screens in a movie theater, it’s already successful."
Certainly, Contrino's point is a valid one. So, what about the finances? According to Politico:
The film opened in 10 mid-sized cities Friday and grossed about $70,000 for the weekend for a per-screen average of about $5,000, the distributor reported. Based on average U.S. ticket prices, that works out to a very rough estimate of less than 9,000 people paying to see “The Undefeated” in its first weekend.
Politico does draw a distinction between the Palin film and other documentaries like it:
More on point might be a new documentary about the hip-hop act A Tribe Called Quest, which averaged $6,500 per screen in 22 locations, or the new documentary by Errol Morris, “Tabloid,” which opened in 14 locations and averaged $7,200 per screen.
Another conservative documentary, Ben Stein’s “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” opened in 2008 at more than 1,000 locations and grossed $2.9 million, a per-screen average of $2,800.
"The Undefeated," while it has so far not grossed as much as the aforementioned films, was rushed to theaters and, according to ARC CEO Trevor Drinkwater, the film was mainly promoted over social media. Substantial monies weren't poured into traditional marketing. In a news release, he says:
"We expect word-of-mouth to keep ticket sales strong and we will definitely expand the film to a wider national audience. With merely three weeks of preparation and a virtually non-existent traditional advertising spend, the film did exceptionally well."
The Hollywood Reporter sheds some light on some of the impending expansion plans:
This Friday, the film will open in additional AMC Theatres in Tucson, Ariz., West Palm Beach, Fla., Milwaukee, Wis., Charlotte, N.C., and Ontario, Calif. The film will also expand into additional theaters in Atlanta and Phoenix while continuing to play in Dallas and Houston, Denver, Orlando, Fla., and Orange, Calif.
The film will likely reach additional cities and localities in which audiences lean more conservative (after all, doesn't this make sense?). You never know -- the film may just find its way to your town.