Most distributors would be ecstatic to get the kind of mainstream media attention Angel Studios is getting for one of their indie movies. However, “Sound of Freedom” isn’t just generating headlines as an unexpected box office hit, finishing its debut weekend with USD $19.7 million before topping blockbusters such as “Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” by mid-week. Instead news stories have revolved around the film’s association with the conspiracy group QAnon as well as conspiracy theories that movie theatre chains are actively trying to prevent audiences from seeing the movie.
The movie stars Jim Caviezel as Tim Ballard, a former Homeland Security investigations agent who started an organization called Operation Underground Railroad to combat child sex trafficking. Posts on social media platforms like TikTok and Twitter, accused major theater chains, particularly AMC Theatres, of trying to alienate viewership for “Sound of Freedom” through various methods; turning off air conditioning in theatres, claiming empty auditoriums are sold out and in once case trying to smoke the patrons out of the cinema. One post from someone claiming to be an AMC employee said he was ordered to pour a liquid containing nanobots into the drinks of moviegoers seeing film. Seriously!
AMC’s CEO Adam Aron has disputed these theories, emphasizing the film’s wide release and significant viewership throughout the circuit. Angel Studios published a statement confirming that AMC has been one of its best partners on “Sound of Freedom.” Rather than viewer suppression most theatre owners will see the issues being highlighted as common operational snafus, even if handled poorly. When projector bulbs blow they sometimes smoke, exhibitors cap attendance in auditoriums during times they aren’t properly staffed given the unusual heatwave affecting certain parts of North America, overtaxed air condition systems fail.
It hasn’t helped that Caviezel’s attempt to distance “Sound of Freedom” from QAnon during interviews managed to do just the opposite. Rather than regret abandoning a potential box office hit, Disney, which shelved the film when it acquired Twentieth Century Fox, is probably happy to have avoided the headache.
Despite all of this, or perhaps because of it, “Sound of Freedom” has managed to attract moviegoers thanks to a marketing strategy that targets both its core Christian audience and attempts to appeal to a broader mainstream audience.