Industry News

Does Walmart’s Decision Against ‘No Safe Spaces’ Pass the Smell Test?

The chain won't stock the free speech doc, but its reasoning looks suspicious

Many documentaries never see the inside of a movie theater.

Filmmakers lucky enough to score a theatrical release pray their films snag north of $1 million.

No Safe Spaces” accomplished both.

The docudrama shows the increasing attacks on free expression on campuses nationwide. The film features chilling tales of suppression, from liberal professors chased from their campus to conservative speakers assaulted for having the “wrong” opinions.

NO SAFE SPACES Trailer

The docudrama, starring Adam Carolla and Dennis Prager, snagged theatrical distribution late last year despite its humble crowdfunding roots. The film earned the 15th slot in the top-grossing documentaries of 2019.

That wasn’t enough for Walmart. The mega-chain said it won’t be stocking the DVD version of the film later this year. Newsweek reporter Paul Bond shared the news earlier this week.

The DVD for No Safe Spaces, last year’s top political documentary based on its $1.3 million haul at the box office, won’t be sold at Walmart stores, and the film’s stars, comedian Adam Carolla and talk-show host Dennis Prager, are accusing the giant retailer of bias.

The movie’s team also tried, and failed, to convince either Netflix or Amazon to stream the feature.

Bias against conservatives is a nationwide crisis, from big tech giants “cancelling” Republicans to Hollywood stars who won’t work with Trump supporters. Let’s not even begin the conversation about liberal media bias, a Fake News plague happening as we speak.

“No Safe Spaces,” like the fight to defend free speech, skews right in 2020. Most of the film’s talking heads are right-leaning folks, although several high-profile liberals are featured in the movie, including Van Jones and Dr. Cornel West.

Carolla and Prager cried foul to Bond, saying Walmart’s decision smacks of political cowardice.

Carolla tells Newsweek that it is ironic that a movie “about the importance of allowing Americans to share ideas freely” was deemed unfit for sale at Walmart. “You can’t make this stuff up,” said Carolla. “It’s a free country and Walmart is free to ban our movie, but our fans are also free to let Walmart know how they feel about that.”

Bond’s article cites “insiders” who say the film’s box office tally wasn’t enough to merit sales in Walmart stores.

“Walmart works hard to meet the needs of its customers by providing a broad assortment of products to choose from,” the company told Newsweek. “The DVDs sold in our stores and Walmart.com are based off data-driven customer insights and the content does not reflect the views of Walmart or its associates.”

Sounds like a bottom line decision … until you step back a bit.

There’s no other DVD title quite like “No Safe Spaces,” one powered by two popular personalities with considerable fan bases.

That’s not all. This reporter visited his local Walmart store in the greater Denver area earlier this week. The Blu-ray/DVD section featured the expected mainstream titles, like “Harriet,” “Zombieland: Double Tap” and “The Rhythm Section.” 

Those selections make sense, even if “Section” disappointed at the box office with a $5.4 million haul.

Other movies stacked up around them, though, were less familiar. Consider the following titles ready for your purchase … and their box office totals:

  • “Vivarium” -- n/a
  • “Camp Cold Brook” -- n/a
  • “True Fiction” -- n/a 
  • “The Postcard Killings” -- n/a
  • “The Last Full Measure” -- $2.9 million

What is “n/a?” It stands for not available, meaning either the numbers were unknown, unreported or the title never received a theatrical release. Films like these are often available primarily via VOD services, but those figures aren’t readily available and are often modest.

That’s not the whole story.

If either Prager or Carolla heavily promote the DVD release, and it’s likely both will, they’ll do so from some powerful pulpits. Carolla’s Twitter flock is more than 568.5K followers strong. Prager’s? 249.4K.

Those numbers don’t include their audio platforms. Prager hosts a nationally syndicated radio show, while “The Adam Carolla Podcast” remains one of the most popular shows in the streaming landscape. Carolla’s show landed at no. 36 on the podbay.fm listing and fifth place in the “Comedy” category.

The four movies above likely have nothing close to that promotional power. Yet Walmart chose not to stock the docudrama.

The Walmart brand, up until recently has been tied to Red State America. Progressive attacks on the mega-chain, targeting employee wages and more, have been plentiful. Yet the family at the company’s helm appears to be drifting to the political left.

Like some of their billionaire counterparts, the Walton family has had a long relationship with Republican Party politics, with considerable financial rewards for Republican politicians running for office…

It seems, however, that this powerhouse donor family may be shifting its political support in recent years. There were reports during the 2016 election that the family was backing Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. Additionally, with Millennial and Gen X nephews and nieces, there is reason to believe that the younger generation may be less conservative.

The “No Safe Spaces” DVD officially goes on sale Sept. 15.

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