''Fahrenheit 9/11'' sets box office records -- In its first week, the controversial Michael Moore film becomes the highest-grossing documentary ever

By Dave Karger
Updated June 26, 2004 at 04:00 AM EDT
George Bush

As if we needed to be reminded: Controversy sells. Four months after ”The Passion of the Christ” rode headlines to break box office records, Michael Moore’s divisive documentary ”Fahrenheit 9/11” topped all other films this weekend, grossing $21.8 million despite playing in only around 870 theaters.

In just three days, ”Fahrenheit” beat Moore’s ”Bowling for Columbine” to become the highest-grossing documentary ever. (”Columbine”’s total take was $21.6 million.) It’s also the biggest opening for a film playing in fewer than 1,000 theaters. And ”Fahrenheit”’s $25,000-plus per-theater average is the seventh-highest in history. Moore himself did a victory lap of sorts, greeting applauding moviegoers coming out of a showing at a downtown Manhattan theater.

The Wayans brothers comedy ”White Chicks,” meanwhile, had to settle for second place, with $19.6 million over the three-day portion of the weekend and $27.1 million since opening on Wednesday. Still, the $27.1 million figure is only slightly below the $30.1 million opening last week of the equally silly ”Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” which slipped only 39 percent this weekend to $18.5 million, bringing its 10-day total to $67.2 million.

Tom Hanks’ ”The Terminal” saw an even smaller drop, just 27 percent, to $13.9 million; after 10 days, it’s earned $41.8 million, still subpar for Hanks. And the new romance ”The Notebook” performed respectably, placing fifth with $13 million. The week’s final new wide release, the family film ”Two Brothers,” could only score the No. 9 position, with a meager $6.2 million. Apparently there’s not much controversy in a couple of baby tigers.

Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story

  • Movie
  • PG-13
  • 96 minutes
  • Rawson Marshall Thurber