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The box-office troubles of docs such as "Bigger, Faster, Stronger" is in contrast to Expelled's impact.

The LA Times runs a story this week on the downturn in box office fortunes for the documentary film genre. The inability of well crafted docs about front burner issues such as Iraq or steroids to reach audiences and to catalyze policy debate makes the impact of Expelled (see column) that much more troubling and suprising.

As the LA Times reports:

Critically acclaimed films about provocative subjects struggle to make money all the time, but rarely have so many lauded documentaries consistently failed to connect at the box office. The recent nonfiction returns have been so bleak that several distributors are growing wary about taking on such highbrow works, an alarming development in a pop culture universe already dominated by "American Idol," James Frey and US Weekly.

"It's unlike anything I've seen before," says Michael Barker, whose Sony Pictures Classics has released the documentary duds "Standard Operating Procedure," "Jimmy Carter: Man From Plains" and "My Kid Could Paint That," none of which grossed more than $250,000 theatrically. "Unless you have movie stars like Michael Moore or Al Gore associated with your film, you can't sell tickets."