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Will "Sicko" Be Healthy At the Box Office?

There's no question that "Sicko" is impacting the national debate on health insurance--but will the movie be a box office hit? It's gotten an incredible amount of press, but as we saw with "Snakes on a Plane," media and YouTube, buzz doesn't always mean box office dollars. (A YouTube search finds 4,800 "Michael Moore" related videos--of those 2,200 come up for "Sicko.)

My super secret box office tracking information reveals that as of this week 22% of those surveyed say they're "definitely interested" in seeing "Sicko." That's just one percentage point behind Focus Features' star-heavy women's drama, Evening, while "Ratatouille" has a 36% response to that question, and "Live Free and Die Hard," a 40%.

Not bad considering "Sicko" cost only about $10 million, that it's (gasp) a documentary, and so much of its publicity has been free. The other big question is awareness -- do people know about this movie? (Or do they just think "SICKO" is the name of Michael Moore's media campaign.) So when the polling service asked if people knew about "Sicko" the movie, 45% said yes, compared to 80% with Disney /Pixar's big budget "Ratatouille."

With the movie opening a week from tomorrow, the tracking isn't terrible at all. It won't open like Spider-Man 3, but Michael Moore has really gotten it out here.

Now that I've seen the film (last night at a packed press screening in L.A.) I'm curious to hear its word of mouth. The film was greeted by applause from 80% of the audience, and 2 people hissing in the background. Though clearly it has an axe to grind. It seemed better crafted and more journalistically responsible than "Fahrenheit 9/11." (A lot of liberals were annoyed by that film, and felt it was only preaching to a certain choir.)

The question, is will the buzz and the hype overcome the format (documentary) and the controversial message? The issue of healthcare insurance problems is certainly not partisan (I've been particularly frustrated by the system recently. So, can Moore shake his partisan rep?

Questions? Comments? MediaMoney@cnbc.com

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  • Working from Los Angeles, Boorstin is CNBC's media and entertainment reporter and editor of CNBC.com's Media Money section.