Last week, I wrote about Variety's prediction that Michael Moore's SICKO would be the salve that would cure all the (perceived? imagined? temporary?) box office woes of documentaries. As I noted, the Weinsteins were (in my opinion) purposefully low-balling expectations by claiming that they expected a box office take similar to that of Moore's 2002 Oscar winner, BOWLING FOR COLUMBINE, or about $21 million, rather than the sky-high $119 million take of his 2004 Bush-bash FAHRENHEIT 9/11.
A year ago, I asked a bunch of folks to weigh in on the box office potential of Davis Guggenheim's AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. No one predicted the stupendous success of that film - although, all bragging aside, I was probably closest, despite my hemming, hawing and general squishiness:
For my part, I still think that the film might be a surprise hit, advancing beyond the $4 million ceiling that David Poland suggested. I think that strong critical reviews and positive word-of-mouth might encourage people who are dismissing the film at the moment. But will it be the year's first (or only) $10 million doc? Hard to say. And we probably won't know for several weeks. Sure, the numbers for New York and Los Angeles are likely to be strong (the latter even despite LA's notorious resistence to documentaries), but what happens when it fans out, not just to so called red states but also rust belt states across the midwest. If the Chicago numbers are strong then you might just have a big success on your hands.
This time around, Movie City News' Poland already had a jump on me, predicting in his summer box office preview that Sicko would gross around $48 million.
So once again, I asked around for some folks to send in their fearless predictions on the long-term health of SICKO, and here's what they said, from biggest guess to lowest:
Warren Etheridge of The Warren Report says:
Put me down for 76 million. I'm feeling lucky.
Brit Withey of the Denver Film Festival and his La Pistola blog:
I'm claiming, despite David Denby's shitty review in the New Yorker but because the issue is such an...umm, issue, it will bring in $61 million.
Chuck Tyron of the chutry experiment weighs in at $53 million:
I'm happy to bet high since there are no consequences.
Jonny Leahan predicts $37 million. Matt Dentler goes with $32 million.
Tom White of International Documentary Magazine says:
I'm going to say $30 million. The Michael Moore-as-box-office force factor and the relevant-issue-to-cineastes-and-mainstreamers-alike factor will catapault Sicko past An Inconvenient Truth to #3 on the all-time top grossers list, but will fall short of March of the Penguins and Fahrenheit 911.
"Moore Tops Gore, But Penguins Stop Moore at the Door."
Finally, Shooting People's Ingrid Kopp says:
Oooh, it's a tough one this. Was Fahrenheit just one of those weird freak phenomenons? Or proof that Moore is constantly gaining box office invincibility?
I'm going for a wussy can't-make-up-my-mind 25 million.
Jonathan Marlow at GreenCine says:
I suspect that the Weinsteins are actually nearly right on this. I'll say $24MM
Mark Bell of Film Threat:
I'm going to be much more conservative, go with about $12 million. Box office pie has been way too small lately, and with "Ratatouille" and "Live Free or Die Hard" in the multiplexes, that money is going to divvy out strangely.
As for me, my best guess is that SICKO will do twice the business of COLUMBINE, so I am gonna weigh in at $43 million, which puts me between Jonny and Poland.
We'll add more predictions if they come in tomorrow. Feel free to post your own prognosticating below.