Despite debuting to an empty theater in Orange County, Ca., "The Undefeated" -- Stephen Bannon's fawning Sarah Palin documentary -- had so-so box office takings over the weekend as it opened in 10 theaters, largely in Palin heartland areas.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the film "grossed $60,000 to $75,000, meaning a per-screen average of $6,000 or $7,500, the measure by which limited openings are judged. A screen average below $10,000 is considered mediocre."
Nonetheless, conservative filmmaker Bannon told THR, "To describe this as anything but a hit is inaccurate... This is a documentary opening against Harry Potter on the toughest weekend of the year. We had small numbers but only in small theaters. In bigger markets, like Orange County, we'll do $12,000 per screen." (It was at an Orange Country screening that The Atlantic’s Conor Friedersdorf sat almost alone in the audience).
Sold out theaters were reported in Kennesaw, Georgia and Grapevine, Texas. The theater in Phoenix, Arizona, reportedly played the film on two screens at one point because of demand.
Critics have panned the two-hour documentary, which charts Palin's rise from small-town mayor and governor to the 2008 Republican vice presidential nomination. The Los Angeles Times' Robert Abele called it "a Sarah Palin infomercial masquerading as a documentary," noting "the patience of even die-hards might be tested by Bannon's ain't-she-perfect fervor." New York Magazine's David Edelstein described it as "a straight hagiography, without nuance or ambiguity," while the Atlantic's Robert Levin said, "This Sarah Palin hosanna is done in by the simple fact that its director needs to go back to film school."
A number of reviews agree that Bannon fails to reconcile his presentation of Palin as a strong leader, a Grizzly Mama, and at the same time as a weak, fragile woman in need of male backing. Nonetheless, ARC Entertainment -- the film's distributor -- plans to roll out "The Undefeated" to wider audiences across the country.