Get banned by Wal-Mart; sell a few hundred thousand DVDs. That's the story behind the sleeper hit documentary 'Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price,' which has become a hit despite being banned by Wal-Mart since the DVD's Nov. 15 release.
As America's largest retailer, Wal-Mart has frequently been criticized for being a corporate bully that drives out smaller businesses in local markets. The documentary, directed by Robert Greenwald, examines this topic as well as such hot-button issues as Wal-Mart's alleged mistreatment of its employees.
On Nov. 15, a pro-Wal-Mart DVD was also released: 'Why Wal-Mart Works and Why That Makes Some People C-R-A-Z-Y!,' from producers Ron and Robert Galloway.
Which is the bigger hit? The Greenwald-directed DVD, which currently ranks No. 354 in Amazon.com DVD sales. The Galloways' Wal-Mart DVD is floundering at a lowly No. 5,144 sales rank. According to Nielsen VideoScan, Greenwald's Wal-Mart DVD has sold nearly 100,000 copies. Sales figures were unavailable for the Galloways' Wal-Mart DVD, which the producers say was funded independently from Wal-Mart.
A spokesperson for Wal-Mart did not return TMZ's calls by deadline.
The success of Greenwald's Wal-Mart DVD reflects "the growing frustration the American people have toward Wal-Mart's business practices," says Chris Kofinis, communications director of Wakeupwalmart.com, a Wal-Mart watchdog website. "Wal-Mart has a negative effect on communities, and people want to know why. People are responding to this movie through a grass-roots movement, by hearing about it through word-of-mouth and because of the efforts of concerned citizens."
And yet according to its corporate Web site, Wal-Mart's net sales have increased 11.3 percent from fiscal year 2004 to $285.2 billion in 2005. So although the anti-Wal-Mart DVD is a top seller, it's not stopping shoppers from digging into the good deals.
As for Wal-Mart's decision not to sell the Greenwald DVD, Kofinis says that the ban is "censorship but I'm not surprised that Wal-Mart did this because they're afraid that their customers will hear the truth."