A story broke today on IndieWIRE offering a glimpse into what Oprah's forthcoming Network (OWN) has in store for documentary filmmakers as Jeff Meyer, Senior Vice President, Scheduling, Acquisitions & Strategy for OWN, unveiled plans this weekend at the Directors Guild in LA for a new initiative.
From the IndieWIRE story:
"We want to create an OWN documentary club - sort of a riff on [Oprah’s] book club - and pick one doc per month and see if we can drive an audience to something that can [often] be a ratings challenge,” Meyer said, adding what material they’ll be seeking out in their first incarnation. “We’re looking for personal stories. Not so political [per se], but we want to find illuminating humanity or issue films that tell a personal story.”
Whether Oprah's influence will shape the direction of aspiring documentary filmmakers remains to be seen. So too does how this type of exposure will affect the box office performance of documentary films, which have historically been niche performers at best.
Below is a list of the top ten grossing U.S. theatrical documentary releases according to www.boxofficemojo.com:
1 Fahrenheit 9/11, $119,194,771
2 March of the Penguins, $77,437,223
3 Earth (2009), $32,011,576
4 Sicko $24,540,079
5 An Inconvenient Truth $24,146,161
6 Bowling for Columbine $21,576,018
7 Oceans $19,422,319
8 Madonna: Truth or Dare $15,012,935
9 Capitalism: A Love Story $14,363,397
10 Religulous $13,011,160
That the #1 doc is #333 on the All time theatrical list shows the relative disparity between Docs and Narrative features.
Four out of the top ten (Fahrenheit 9/11, Sicko, Bowling for Columbine, and Capitalism: A Love Story) are been Produced and Directed by Michael Moore.
Three (Earth, Oceans, and March of the Penguins) are straight ahead nature docs.
One, An Inconvenient Truth is a nature doc crossed with the celebrity power of a former Vice President and a decidedly leftward leaning look at Global Warming.
The final two are also personality driven, including Bill Maher's Religulous a Michael Moore-style dissection of religion, and Truth or Dare, starring that force-of-nature called Madonna.
Perhaps Oprah's touch will open the theatrical documentary arena to a wider variety of voices, motivating folks to watch challenging, interesting, inspiring and moving films with audience, in a community setting.
At its very least, let's hope the Oprah can expand a genre—marginalized in the the public's consciousness to PBS and the like—beyond the confines of their television screens and into theatrical venues in more communities than would normally have access to such films.
"That's just nuts." Mark and others, suggest we use this blanket response to Oy from…
"I didn't watch baseball, football or basketball for nearly a decade because it was from…
"What about the ITP fans? Are they fat asses...?" _______________________________________________________ I suppose, but Oy and…
"Some people join unions for philosophical reasons." __________________________________________ All people join unions for philosophical reasons…
" I am asking you for your source to prove union members are leftists." _________________________________________________________…
"GO BRAVES! AND KEEP RIGHT ON GOING!...right outta town...."
Finally - common ground!