Expelled‘s receipts decline further

Granted, Mondays are slow days for movie theaters, but Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed grossed only $238,804 at 1,052 theaters, a third of what it grossed on Sunday.

[Updated 4/23/08: Tuesday’s sales were $227,232 for a total to date of $3,436,884, according to Box Office Mojo.]

After five days in the theaters, the anti-evolution movie has grossed $3.4 million, far from the amount its producers need to break even. Nevertheless, it’s still ranked eighth in gross receipts for all April 18 releases and eighth in receipts for “political documentaries.’

In other words, for the kind of movie it is, Expelled is doing about as well as most observers would expect.

Whether it will have “legs” past its first week remains in doubt. Its release followed weeks of carefully orchestrated “private screenings” to sympathetic audiences, a national TV ad campaign, and attention from critics of the movie and its premise — that “Darwinists” persecute anyone who suggests evolution is invalid and that an Intelligent Designer (or God) created life on Earth.

The movie’s marketers have encouraged churches, youth groups and Christian schools to organize field trips to see Expelled in the theaters, offering them prizes for the most tickets purchased. Those efforts will probably not be enough to shore up sales, though.

To make money, Expelled has to appeal to a wider audience than Christians or doubters of evolution’s validity. Its release coincided with a Jackie Chan/Jet Li blockbuster, a heavily marketed Judd Apatow romantic comedy, and other light fare; most theater goers will plunk down their $8 to be entertained, not to listen to Ben Stein’s droning narration of a fairly boring topic. May’s releases will only create more competition. [Ironman will hammer Ben Stein.]

Evolution and Intelligent Design are hot topics only to those of us “in the business” of science education and research. Most theater goers could give a fig about either, especially if they pay attention to movie critics, who have almost unanimously panned Expelled.

As for me, I refuse to spend a nickel on a movie ticket. The private screening in Louisville, to which I had intended to go, was canceled at the last minute in favor of an exclusive showing at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, perhaps to keep soreheads like me out. If I watch Expelled, it’ll either be with a rented DVD or a download.

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