Even though "Fahrenheit 9/11" didn't accomplish Michael Moore
's goal in unseating George W. Bush
as president of the United States of America
, its success at the box office
still makes the film a truly monumental achievement in the history of American cinema.
The film, released by Lions Gate Films had a production budget of 6 million dollars backed by a 15 million dollar marketing campaign. While the film is still tracking at the North American and International box office, it will end up with 119 million made domestically and another 103 million made internationally (222.4 million worldwide). These figures easily make it the highest grossing documentary of all time, a record Michael Moore had already set twice before with his 2002 film Bowling for Columbine (21 million domestically, 36 million overseas) and his 1989 breakthrough Roger & Me (6.7 million domestically, 1 million overseas). It also should be noted that the documentary record was broken after the films very first weekend. It also broke the record for widest number of screens for a documentary three weeks in a row (868 opening weekend, 1,725 2nd weekend and 2,011 3rd weekend). It was also the first documentary to ever cross the once heavily coveted $100 million dollar mark.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" also was the highest grossing film to ever win the Palme D'Or at Cannes Film Festival, out grossing American classics such as Pulp Fiction, Apocalypse Now, Taxi Driver, The Piano and sex, lies and videotape that also won that award.
Outside of the independent film and art house circuit, "Fahrenheit 9/11" made its mark just as strongly. It was the 17th highest grossing film domestically in 2004, having out grossed big budget blockbusters such as Mean Girls, Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Grudge, Collateral, Hellboy and Alien vs. Predator, the latest Spielberg film, The Terminal, and outgrossed every single film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards.
The film's 24 million dollar opening weekend was one of the biggest opening weekends for an R-rated film of all time and one of the biggest in 2004. It also broke Rocky II's record for the biggest box office opening weekend for any film that opened in less than a thousand theaters.
With all partisanship aside, "Fahrenheit 9/11" set a true milestone in the history of American film: A documentary film that was in the style of few documentary films that came before it and managed to achieve success not only in the independent film world and the political world but in the world of popular culture as well.