Popular culture in America is a big part of what used to be called the Culture Wars. For the record, we, the Progressives, despite protestations from the Right, won the Culture Wars. Look at television, listen to music online shop and see the ads displayed and that should be enough evidence of our victory. But alas, all those conservative culture warriors aren’t dead yet and the remaining ones are still filled with pious fight.

Over the past month the Right has hailed the box office success of “American Sniper” as proof that the movies that conservatives like [mostly about Americans killing “the enemy”] are more popular than the movies that Progressives like. I’m still of a mind that movie and other forms of entertainment are apolitical but for this purpose I’d like to make a few points.

First, let’s take a look at the movies themselves. “American Sniper” [yes I have seen the movie] was a beautiful film and does deserve all the Oscar® and other accolades that it has gotten this year. There was a lot of graphic violence which was important to show just what Chris Kyle went through in service to his country. “Sniper” cost $58.8 million to make, runs for 133 minutes, and to this point has earned $316,242,000 globally. The film had an opening US weekend of $89,269,000.

Today, at lunch, I screened “50 Shades of Grey” with Valeri Dubov in the newspaper’s theater and I have to admit it does the books justice. “50 Shades” debuts to wide audiences on 13 February 2015. Valeri Dubov estimates that it will be the highest grossing film of the weekend and sweep away “Sniper” from the top spot. The film cost $40 million to make and runs for 125 minutes.

There are many factors that could make “50 Shades” a flop just as there are many that could make it a success. Well, actually, they are the same factor. If on 15 February word of mouth has created a firestorm of “Hunger Games” proportions around the movie, well it will be a blockbuster. If early movie goers find it wanting well it will make its $100 million and slink off into the cinematic history bin.

Of course, knowing me like you do I have to make a prediction. I believe “50 Shades” will take in roughly $145 million in its opening weekend and will settle after six weeks in the range of $309 million. Over at John Nolte has written extensively about “American Sniper” hailing it as “The Passion of the Christ” of war movies. He’s also gone on and on about how this movie, popular with conservatives, has grossed more than 18 anti-war movies combined. Curiously, left out of that group was Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, the most successful political documentary of all time, which grossed a staggering $222.4 million globally on a $6 million budget.

I do have to take Nolte’s view on movies with a grain of sulfur though. One of the greatest flops in documentary history, no, in all of film history was the 2012 camapaign trial balloon launched about Sarah Palin in 2011, The Undefeated. This documentary cost $1.1 million to make and grossed a whopping $116,381 at the box office. The Palin movie ran for 28 days which means it made $4,156 nationally per day. Compare this to Fahrenheit 9/11’s $1,045, 568 per day nationally. Nolte, in the summer of 2011 had this to say about the “success” of the film three weeks before its release:

The key to the ultimate effectiveness of a documentary like “The Undefeated” is more than just how many people see it or even who those people are. Certainly that matters to some degree, but so does how the very existence of the documentary changes the national political conversation. Naysayers of the “The Undefeated” dismiss the film’s impact by telling us that only Palinistas are going to bother to buy tickets. In other words, since the film preaches to the choir there will be no new converts. Intentionally or not, that’s a fairly simplistic declaration that doesn’t take into account how the film will impact the political news narrative — an impact that’s already apparent to anyone paying attention.

And then, three days after The Undefeated opened grossing a cringe worthy $65,132, Nolte offers this:

But how well the film does business-wise is not really connected to the impact the film has already had and will continue to have in the political world — which is why I completely (and respectfully) disagree with Ed Morrissey’s closing assessment of the film’s box office performance over at Hot Air:

So, when a movie is a box office success and appeals to conservatives the numbers of butts in seats matter; when the movie tailor made to appeal to the TEA Party wing flops it’s the message not the money. I found things to like in both movies. Sex and violence aside in each the bottom line often comes down not to politics but word of mouth and suspension of disbelief.

Qu’ul cuda praedex nihil!

Diane Valencen, D.S.V.J., CS, O.Q.H [Journ.], ArF J., M.F.
Editorial Page Editor
The Dis Brimstone Daily Pitchfork
118 Melnar 3 AS

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