In a Summer of movies that have largely “underperformed” (to put it charitably), there’s one movie that has exploded expectations so thoroughly, its box office graph looks more like the performance of Bernie Madoff’s hedge fund. Of course, I’m referring to the over 100-million (so far) grossing “Sound of Freedom.”
Many box office prognosticators (or conscious human beings who have seen a movie in theaters over the last decade) are asking questions like “What is this movie?” “How is this possible?” “WTF?” “How is this turd climbing the box office charts weeks after it’s been released?” “Given the movie’s ties to QAnon and heavy promotion from people like Steve Bannon, is this some sort of elaborate money laundering scheme?”
It’s a great question.
For starters, the box office for it is positively miraculous. 100 million (and growing) is certainly tough to do for an independent movie in the dead of Summer (it’s the first post-CoVid indie to gross more than 100 million). And to gain money each weekend its released? This past weekend, it grew its box office a whopping 37% against the grand opening of a much bigger budgeted action movie: the juggernaut “Mission Impossible 7.” [This is the only time a wide release movie has grown more than 35% in the summer season.] And it could very well top “Dead Reckoning–Part 1” this weekend.
So what’s going on here? After all, this is a long-delayed movie that’s been sitting on a shelf for 5 years, but it’ll likely wind up outgrossing “The Flash,” “Fast X,” and “Indiana Jones 5” if it keeps up this pace. And nobody smells a fish here?
In addition to heavy links to QAnon, the movie has been heavily promoted by conservative icons (Steve Bannon has encouraged people to see it as if his life–or credit rating–depends on it, and of course Trump has as well). Then there are the conservative groups who supposedly gave out free tickets the first few weeks of release.
The movie also uses a unique “pay it forward” ticketing system that encourages people to buy bulk tickets for those that may not otherwise see the movie. This is why there’s been reports of theaters that were nearly empty in actuality looking as though they’re “sold out.”
You have to admit that a movie would be a fantastic vehicle for money laundering. And “Freedom” was produced by the Utah-based “Angel Studios,” which perhaps has a double meaning (it usually releases religious movies), but primarily refers to “angel investors.” Just like the “pay it forward” tickets are a rarity, they use an equally-unheard of business model of “equity crowdfunding,” meaning any individual investor can buy “shares” in any of the movies they release.
This means that if any investor/producer of “Sound” were to artificially juice the box office through “pay it forward” tickets, they would be certain to get paid back–whereas traditional studios have heavy layers of management, salaries, and slippery cost accounting practices that could make it harder for a film investor to get paid back at all. In other words, if the conservative groups giving away free tickets to “Sound” also bought “shares,” they can be fairly confident they’ll be paid back at least some of their money.
Either way, it feels fun to float a wild conspiracy theory about a movie primarily seen and funded by QAnon conspiracy theorists. [As we know, the “government insider” that is QAnon was actually a message board operator living in the Phillipines, and few things are as they seem with anyone connected to that group.] And it certainly merits a discussion for a “word of mouth” box office champion in an era that doesn’t see too many of those, and certainly not ones that are low-budget, “Tubi-esque” films about the dreary topic of child sex rings.