Politics & Policy

Hollywood’s Gun-Control Dud

Jessica Chastain in Miss Sloane
Miss Sloane, like the gun-control movement as a whole, is a flop.

Miss Sloane, a highly anticipated movie demonizing the NRA and calling for gun control, has bombed. The movie succeeded only in emphasizing the top-down nature of the gun-control campaign and how little intensity there is for more regulations.

The movie seemed to have everything going for it. Liberal movie critics loved it, and it was backed by a hefty ad budget along with heaps of favorable news coverage. The Hollywood Foreign Press Association has already nominated the movie’s star, Jessica Chastain, for a prestigious Golden Globe, considered a strong predictor of the Oscars.

But two weeks after its national release, it has made only $3.2 million. During its second weekend, it averaged just $102 per movie theater per day. With a ticket price of $10.30 per adult, that comes to an average of only 9.9 people a day seeing the movie in any given theater. At least people had no problem finding a good seat.

And it wasn’t for lack of trying to get people to show up. Out of the 200 highest-grossing movies of 2016, only ten exceeded the $15.9 million television advertising budget of Miss Sloane, and seven of those did so by very small amounts. Miss Sloane spent more than the Star Wars spinoff Rogue One, Star Trek, Pete’s Dragon, Arrival, Doctor Strange, and Hacksaw Ridge. It had twice the advertising budget of such hits as Sully, The Girl on the Train, and The Secret Life of Pets.

For every dollar spent on advertising, Miss Sloane brought in just 21 cents in ticket sales. By this measure, it came in dead last out of the 200 top-grossing movies in 2016. No one else was even close. Coming in second-to-last was Collateral Beauty, which made 53 cents per advertising dollar. The average movie made almost $2 for each dollar spent on advertising.

TV ads for Miss Sloane aired a total of 2,270 times: 316 times on CNN, Fox News, and MSNBC; 289 on prime-time CBS, NBC, ABC, and Fox shows. All told, they covered 34 different networks.

The concept of the script had also been thoroughly road-tested. Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton have galvanized public support by suggesting that politicians are intimidated from passing sensible regulations only because gun makers want to make money. And, like a Clinton or Obama speech, the film leaves out all of the strong arguments made by gun-control opponents. There is no response to concerns that the very gun-sale-control regulations being pushed in the movie primarily disarm law-abiding citizens, especially poor blacks and Hispanics living in high-crime inner cities.

Will Democrats follow the box-office returns?

Poorly funded gun-control advocates are shown doing battle with the big, bad National Rifle Association. Of course, Michael Bloomberg is never mentioned. He would spoil the story, since he gives $50 million a year to his regulation-pushing Everytown for Gun Safety. This is 2.5 times more than the NRA spends on political activities. From 2013 to 2016, Bloomberg donated a total of $48 million to candidates running for federal office. The NRA contributed just $2.1 million. And that’s not even mentioning the hundreds of millions that Bloomberg, George Soros, and others funnel into producing gun-control research.

Indeed, if it weren’t for Bloomberg, there wouldn’t be a gun-control movement today. The continually repeated claim that 80 to 90 percent of Americans favor background checks on private transfers of guns is an illusion of poorly done polling. Bloomberg’s Nevada ballot initiative eked out a win this November by less than one percentage point, and only because of the almost $20 million spent on it, amounting to an incredible $35.30 per vote. In Maine, the same initiative failed by eight percentage points despite equally unlimited spending. Even in Washington state, which passed the initiative with 59 percent of the vote, Bloomberg and his supporters outspent those opposed to it 33-fold.

#related#Surveys have long shown that gun control has not been something Americans feel intensely about, with usually only 1 percent of Americans saying it is an important issue. The movie’s empty theaters are just one more measure of that lack of intensity.

Back in January 2014, prominent film-studio executive Harvey Weinstein promised a gun-control movie that would make the NRA “wish they weren’t alive.” Meryl Streep was scheduled to star in the movie (titled “The Senator’s Wife”), but almost three years later it is still listed as “in development.” With each passing year it looks like Weinstein’s taunt was never serious.

The question is now whether Democrats will follow the box-office returns better than they have followed the polls.

– John R. Lott Jr. is the president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of The War on Guns.

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