Al Gore Gets Ripped Off Again

He should have demanded a recount.

A botched strategy by Paramount Pictures effectively sabotaged the nationwide release of the Al Gore documentary An Inconvenient Sequel: Truth to Power, which finished in 15th place in US theatres this weekend. This was not supposed to happen–and it would not have happened if Paramount had stuck with its original release plan.

Back in June, Paramount abandoned plans to give An Inconvenient Sequel a wide release on July 28, choosing instead to release the film in only four screens in New York and Los Angeles on July 28 and only 180 screens nationwide a week later. Apparently, Paramount executives thought it was wiser to copy the “platform” release strategy of 2006’s An Inconvenient Truth. However, considering the fact that this is arguably the first major anti-Trump documentary to hit theatres–and considering the public outrage over Trump’s decision to pull out of the Paris climate agreement–Paramount should have stuck to its original plan; in fact, Paramount could have seized upon anti-Trump sentiment by giving An Inconvenient Sequel the same high-profile national rollout that Lionsgate gave Fahrenheit 9/11 in 2004, a rollout that resulted in that iconic film opening at #1 at the US box office, a rarity for a documentary.

It’s a shame that Paramount dropped the ball, giving the film a “national” release in so few theatres that most Americans must wait until the film is available on demand or on DVD in order to see it. Where’s the sense in this decision?

No, I don’t think there’s collusion between Viacom, Paramount’s parent company, and the Koch Brothers. The decision to change the release strategy and give An Inconvenient Sequel a tiny national rollout was borne of the same tone-deaf thought process that gave rise to HBO’s doomed Confederate. Paramount executives simply didn’t have their finger on the public pulse.

Lionsgate went all-in on Fahrenheit 9/11 because the studio’s executives recognized that anti-George W. Bush sentiment was at a fever pitch in the summer of 2004. They knew that by aggressively promoting the film as, in essence, the movie Dick Cheney didn’t want you to see, they would score a landslide box-office victory.

Paramount apparently couldn’t be bothered to aggressively promote An Inconvenient Sequel as the movie Trump and Scott Pruitt didn’t want you to see–and giving American audiences a decent chance to see it. By failing to do so, the studio effectively undercut its own product.

Sadly, the box-office underperformance of An Inconvenient Sequel will be seized upon by climate-change deniers as “proof” that Americans don’t really care about this issue. That’s a false conclusion, but false conclusions never stopped right-wingers before. The House Climate Solutions Caucus would have zero Republican members if the electorate had been as indifferent to this issue as climate deniers claim.

Gore is fond of saying that the evidence of the climate crisis is now so obvious that watching news coverage of extreme weather events is like “taking a nature hike through the Book of Revelation.” (Gore’s appearance on Fareed Zakaria GPS yesterday, where he again used this phrase, may well be the last time climate change is mentioned on CNN in the near future.) Too bad Paramount Pictures effectively told Gore to take a hike.

D.R. Tucker

D. R. Tucker is a Massachusetts-based journalist who has served as the weekend contributor for the Washington Monthly since May 2014. He has also written for the Huffington Post, the Washington Spectator, the Metrowest Daily News, investigative journalist Brad Friedman's Brad Blog and environmental journalist Peter Sinclair's Climate Crocks.