The Expelled DVD was released October 21, distributed by Vivendi. When I checked early that morning (around 3:30 am), it was doing well for a documentary about the intelligent design guys that almost every legacy film pundit knew he had a duty to trash – if he was going to eat lunch again in Shallow Waters.
By then, there were 241 reviews, and the vast majority of the ones I scrolled through were attacks, voted up by hundreds of people. But the film was also #30 in DVDs Amazon. (Note: As of October 22, 2008, at 6:30 am EST it was #14*, with 256 reviews.)
As I now write this (October 23, 2008 about 7:30 EST), Expelled is
Amazon.com Sales Rank: #11 in Movies & TV
Popular in these categories:
#1 in Movies & TV > Documentary
#2 in Movies & TV > Comedy
#4 in Movies & TV > Kids & Family
And there are now 260 reviews. More of the reviews I am seeing are not just Darwin cultists venting auto-hate. They include non-cultists engaging with the subject.
But, clearly, even if all the reviews were from Darwin cultists on autopilot hate, the message is clear. Amazon customers are just letting the rant boys rant – while they themselves buy the film and move on.
Lesley Burbridge-Bates of Motive Entertainment Partnership/L.A.B. Media, the publicity firm, tells us,
It opened in the Top 10, achieving the #5 position on a per-screen average. It has already made its place in history as the #12 Top Grossing Documentary of all time and the #1 Conservative Documentary. The initial buzz about the film was so intense that it became the #1 most popular blog on the Internet (3/24/08), the #6 Top search on Yahoo (4/8/08), and received over 2 million web hits, more than any other movie’s website during this time.
Part of that was Yoko Ono’s doing, to be sure. Her lawsuit over the use of a couple of bars from the late John Lennon’s song Imagine resulted in millions of people learning about the film who had never been remotely interested in the intelligent design controversy.
That’s quite significant. The single biggest problem for anyone introducing a new idea is to get recognition from peoplew ho are not already interested. The legal trouble with Yoko Ono was very expensive for the Expelled producers, but they couldn’t have bought the resulting publicity breakthrough at any price.
Eventually, Ono dropped the case, the producers dropped Imagine from the DVD. But her suit provides an excellent illustration of the Law of Unintended Consequences.
*Note: A friend wrote [October 22, 2008] to say, “I just checked and it’s listed as #14 in movies and TV. HOWEVER, I looked at the listings page and a number of the top 13 are duplicates, that is, two listings for the same movie depending on format (e.g., Blu-ray or standard DVD), so Expelled is actually #8 in terms of titles. (as of 2:36 pm EST).”