‘Expelled’ enjoys storm of controversy

No such thing as bad press for evolution film

In niche film marketing, there is, indeed, no such thing as bad publicity.

As the Premise Media doc “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” rolled into 1,000+ theaters this weekend, filmmakers for the anti-Darwinism pic are enjoying a hailstorm of controversy spawned by lawsuits, campus debates and more hype than the papal visit.

Motive Entertainment, the marketing muscle behind “The Passion of the Christ” and “The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe,” eschewed a conventional promo campaign for the film and instead courted evangelical groups and opinion makers. As with “Passion” and “Narnia,” churches have enthusiastically embraced the project, which claims that intelligent design backers are being discriminated against in academia.

Motive scored an even bigger coup in tempting major newspapers like the Los Angeles Times to take the bait, dedicating ample opinion-page coverage to the so-called debate.

And if op-eds weren’t enough to capture the attention of the masses, Premise ensured a little bit more notoriety by filing a lawsuit last week in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas “seeking declaratory judgment that there is no copyright or other infringement” in the film, following claims by scientific animation outfit XVIVO that “Expelled” uses cell renditions it created.

It remains to be seen whether all those headlines will help distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures, whose previous top grosser was “End of the Spear” ($11.7 milllion), post its biggest hit to date.

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