‘Decency’ and ‘Innocence’ Lead to Box-Office Success for Mr. Rogers Documentary

The film is already one of the most successful of its genre, and 'The Ingraham Angle' on Fox News explained why

Image Credit: Focus Features

Documentaries don’t often earn big money at the box office — but when they portray a positive message, it’s certainly possible. This has been the case for the 2018 documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

It tells the story of Fred Rogers, the star of the famous children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” The program was aimed at young children and aired from 1968 to 2001 on PBS.

The new documentary is the most popular of its genre in the past five years, according to The Hollywood Reporter. At the box office, it’s expected to hit a total of $20 million in earnings this weekend since its premiere in June. Plus, it is on pace to be 14th of all time in terms of box-office earnings in the documentary genre, without factoring in inflation.

The film reportedly is also the highest grossing biographical documentary in the United States of all time; it recently surpassed the 2015 documentary “Amy,” about the life and death of British singer and songwriter Amy Winehouse. She passed away at 27 years old in 2011; the film about her earned $8.4 million domestically.

On Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Friday night, Fox News contributor Raymond Arroyo spoke with host Laura Ingraham about how uncommon it is for a documentary to receive this level of support from audiences.

“Al Gore’s movie ‘The Inconvenient Sequel: Truth [to Power],’ made $3.7 million at the box office — and the Pope Francis movie [‘Pope Francis: A Man of His Word’] earlier this year, $1.7 million at the box office domestically. Why are people going to this Mr. Rogers movie? I think it’s decency, innocence, lifting people and using the medium for good,” said Arroyo.

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Certainly, a major reason the Rogers film is succeeding this year has to do with Fred Rogers’ acceptance of people of many backgrounds and persuasions.

“Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” was the first children’s television series to have a recurring African-American character in Francois Clemmons, who played Officer Clemmons on the original show. Clemmons was also a openly gay man.

Related: ‘Won’t You Be My Neighbor?’: A Fitting Tribute to a Misunderstood Mr. Rogers

Arroyo pointed out that even during divisive times and civil rights, Mr. Rogers was a tolerant figure. Plus, he had conservative values and was not a leftist.

“He was a Presbyterian minister who used the medium for good,” Arroyo told Ingraham. “He was an influence for children and helped them for good. He was also, I learned from the movie, a lifelong Republican, you’ll be happy to know.”

Fred Rogers was never a divisive figure — and always made sure he stayed true to the Bible and Mark 12:31: “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, and other outlets.

Tom Joyce
meet the author

Tom Joyce is a freelance writer from the South Shore of Massachusetts. He covers sports, pop culture, and politics and has contributed to The Federalist, Newsday, ESPN, and other outlets.

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