Written by: FFT Webmaster | January 9th, 2012
2011 was another strong year for documentaries at the theatrical box office, with many also gaining revenue from online streaming and video on demand platforms. While there are no big winners a la Michael Moore’s FAHRENHEIT 911, the showings were strong, with a mix of both big studio and independent releases that continue to fuel the fire for documentary aspirations. Leading the pack was the Paramount-released concert film JUSTIN BIEBER: NEVER SAY NEVER, which tallied up an impressive $73 million in worldwide box office sales (making it the third highest grossing doc ever, after FAHRENHEIT 911 and MARCH OF THE PENGUINS). Two nature documentaries took second and third place, also studio releases: the Disney lion film AFRICAN CATS and the IMAX chimpanzee saga BORN TO BE WILD. Then we come to the indies, with Werner Herzog leading the pack in fourth place with his 3D film of the astounding prehistoric cave paintings of southern France in CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (which should but probably won’t win the Oscar this year), followed by the “horse whisperer” story BUCK. Other on the list in descending order include SENNA, the story of the legendary UK race car driver; I AM, Tom Shadyac’s existential “why are we here” road movie; BILL CUNNINGHAM NEW YORK, director Richard Press’ winning portrait of the legendary fashion photographer; BEATS, RHYMES AND LIFE, the story of the influential rap group A Tribe Called Quest by actor-turned-director Michael Rappaport; and PAGE ONE: A YEAR INSIDE THE NEW YORK TIMES, a fascinating behind-the-scenes look at the politics and dramas of the world’s greatest newspaper. Of course, many more documentaries were released in 2011 that did not create any waves at the box office, but hopefully, with all the existing distribution platforms out there, they have found at least a small audience of admirers and advocates.