Follow up to An Inconvenient Truth earns solid $5,340 per screen; Step hops into second spot
On a weekend in which An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power went wide, there was a wide difference between its earnings and every other nonfiction film in theaters.
The documentary that centers on Al Gore's continued efforts to rally action against climate change made $961,193 from Friday through Sunday, playing on 180 screens in North America, according to audience measurement firm comScore. Combining what the film made on its opening weekend -- when it played on just four screens -- the documentary has grossed a total of $1,113,564.
A report on FoxNews.com proclaimed An Inconvenient Sequel a box office bomb because it finished in "the 15th spot" over the weekend (the film in fact ranked in 16th place). The website's shallow analysis betrayed scant understanding of a successful release for a nonfiction film.
It is very rare for any documentary to crack the top 15 at the box office -- which is always dominated by fictional fare, not docs. Fiction films draw on vastly greater marketing budgets to drive audience awareness, and play on an exponentially larger number of screens than a typical documentary.
For instance, the number one film overall this past weekend was The Dark Tower, which played on 3,451 screens -- almost 20 times as many screens as An Inconvenient Sequel. The films made about the same amount per screen -- $5,550 for The Dark Tower vs. $5,340 for An Inconvenient Sequel.
In short, the success of a documentary should be judged against other documentaries, not fiction films. But perhaps Fox News viewed the box office results through a political lens (what a thought!), seeking to cast the film's "failure" as a statement on Al Gore and others who view combating climate change as an urgent international priority.
An Inconvenient Sequel actually got off to a very strong start for a documentary film, enjoying one of the best weekends of any nonfiction title this year. It is highly unlikely to achieve the ultimate results of An Inconvenient Truth -- about $24 million total gross -- but the sequel lacks the same novelty factor as the original. An Inconvenient Truth's box office also got a major boost from the film winning the Academy Award for best documentary.
Elsewhere at the doc box office, Step debuted in second place over the weekend, earning an impressive $146,053 on 29 screens, per comScore. The film by Amanda Lipitz follows the "trials and triumphs" of the Step Team at the Baltimore Leadership School for Young Women.
The top five documentary films, as reported by comScore:
1. An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power by Bonni Cohen and Jon Shenk
2. Step by Amanda Lipitz
3. Rumble: The Indians Who Rocked the World by Catherine Bainbridge
4. The Last Dalai Lama? by Mickey Lemle
5. City of Ghosts by Matthew Heineman
Note: This article has been updated
Matthew Carey is a documentary filmmaker and journalist. His work has appeared on Deadline.com, CNN, CNN.com, TheWrap.com, NBCNews.com and in Documentary magazine.