Why can’t Darwin film find a US distributor?

The Sydney Morning Herald has reported that the new film Creation (starring husband-and-wife actors Paul Bettany and Jennifer Connelly as Charles Darwin and wife Emma Darwin) has failed to find a distributor in the United States.  The film deals with Darwin’s life after his ’round-the-world voyage on the Beagle and his personal struggle to come to terms with the theory of evolution by natural selection.  The film has been screened in various places, including the Toronto Film Festival, and has received generally positive reviews.  Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education calls it “a thoughtful, well-made film that will change many views of Darwin held by the public—for the good.”

According to the SMH report, Creation producer Jeremy Thomas blames the failure to get a distribution deal on its controversial subject matter.  The report also cites a recent Gallup poll showing that only 39% of Americans say the believe in evolution (25% say they don’t, while 36% expressed no opinion).

A number of bloggers (including PZ Myers) have run with Thomas’s explanation, despite the lack of any corroborating statements from the distributors involved.

It’s easy to say “Yeah, the movie distributors are afraid of the fundamentalists and theocrats, and so this fine film will not get a fair chance in America.”  But I’m not so sure.  Controversy has its risks, but it also sells tickets.  How is it that a blasphemous documentary like Religulous not only got a distributor, but also sold twice the tickets in half the time as the anti-evolution film Expelled?  Blasphemous, offensive and controversial films get distribution deals all the time.  I suspect that, while its subject matter might be part of the equation, there are other reasons Creation has yet to find a home.  Maybe potential distributors found it boring, or lacking in quality, or (and this is no consolation) they felt that American audiences would be apathetic toward it.  But seriously…does anyone really think this film won’t be screened in America because it will upset Creationists?  Unless I hear more, I tend to think not.

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