Monday, June 28, 2004

The media is whipped into a frenzy.

"'Fahrenheit 9/11' Breaks Records!" shouts CNN.

"'Fahrenheit' sets single day sales record in NY!" blares MSNBC.

USA Today hyperventilates "'Fahrenheit 9/11' torches records at box office!"

Wow! Move over, Mel Gibson! Look out, "Titanic!"

Well, not exactly.

As it turns out, Michael Moore's film has set the box office record for documentaries, which is kind of like winning the midget high jump contest. To put things in perspective, the film earned about $22 million bucks on its opening weekend, which is certainly respectable, but only $2 million ahead of something called "White Chicks," (featuring Shawn and Marlon Wayans in drag) and $3.5 million ahead of the second weekend of the sure-to-be-Oscar-nominated "Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story," starring Ben Stiller.

As for the breathless headlines, a little dilligence in reading the actual articles pays big, mirthful dividends. At CNN ("'Fahrenheit 9/11' Breaks Records!"), we find these hilariously qualified paragraphs:
LOS ANGELES, California (AP) -- Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" took in a whopping $21.8 million in its first three days, becoming the first documentary ever to debut as Hollywood's top weekend film.

If Sunday's estimates hold when final numbers are released Monday, "Fahrenheit 9/11" would set a record in a single weekend as the top-grossing documentary ever outside of concert films and movies made for huge-screen IMAX theaters.
That's pretty impressive, "whopping" stuff.

In the MSNBC article ("'Fahrenheit' sets single day sales record in NY!"), we find that the accomplishment might not be quite as herculean as the headline indicates:
LOS ANGELES - Director Michael Moore’s controversial documentary “Fahrenheit 9/11” turned on the box office heat in its first day in theaters breaking single-day records at the two New York City theaters where it played.
That's right, kids. It broke the single-day sales records in exactly two Manhattan theaters.

As for it's "whopping" opening weekend, according to Box Office Mojo, the $22 million take for "Fahrenheit 9/11" gives it the 222nd biggest weekend opening of all time, just two spots behind 1999's "Inspector Gadget." That also places it only a few thousand dollars ahead of the opening of "Garfield" a few weeks ago. And appropriately enough, it finishes a full 21 spots behind the opening weekend of 2002's "Jackass, The Movie"--which is as much a "documentary" as "Fahrenheit" is.

Record-breaking indeed.

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