Gonzo is the most-popular theatrical documentary in a weak summer for docs

Documentaries aren’t doing well in theaters this summer, even though more than 24 have been released.

Although the number of releases represent “a big summer,” and in “past summers [documentaries] have seen plenty of profits,” USA TODAY reports that “this summer, none has yet attracted major ticket sales.” The paper suggests that “[i]f a hit doesn’t emerge, it could spell tough times for documentary filmmakers, who typically shop their wares to distributors who buy them in hopes of making more at the box office.”

It could just take one, though. American Teen director Nanette Burstein, who followed high school students over a year for her film, said, “If one breaks out, that gives a lot of hope to the business. Studios releasing them need to know there’s a possibility for great financial gain. If there’s no economic model, studios will think the tide has changed and audiences aren’t interested anymore. Hollywood has a short memory.”

The most-watched documentary of the summer is Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson, Alex Gibney’s film about, uh, the life and work of the pioneering journalist. It has received “generally favorable” reviews, and has made $1.1 million so far. Here’s its trailer:

Documentaries walk fine line [USA TODAY]
Gonzo: The Life and Work of Dr. Hunter S. Thompson

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about the writer

Andy Dehnart is a journalist who has covered reality television for more than 15 years and created reality blurred in 2000. A member of the Television Critics Association, his writing and criticism about television, culture, and media has appeared on NPR and in Playboy, Buzzfeed, and many other publications. Andy, 36, also directs the journalism program at Stetson University in Florida, where he teaches creative nonfiction and journalism. He has an M.F.A. in nonfiction writing and literature from Bennington College. More about reality blurred and Andy.