In brief

  • A documentary about the privacy coin Monero was a box office hit.
  • It raised a few thousand dollars in its opening weekend earlier this month, making it the highest-grossing US film of that weekend...for a brief period.
  • Of course, most cinemas are closed.

A film about privacy-focused cryptocurrency Monero was briefly a hit, topping the US box office. But, as is often the case with crypto… there are a couple of major caveats.

When the feature-length documentary Monero Means Money topped the charts during the second weekend of April, it grossed just $3,430. By comparison, the latest Avengers film raked in around $350 million in its opening weekend in North America last April. Additionally, when the figures were revised today, Monero was no longer top dog—it had been beaten by Phoenix, Oregon, which grossed $11,479. Still, its actual position, #2, is still an achievement...kinda.

The Monero community, which champions the privacy-based cryptocurrency, won on a technicality: it’s currently illegal for many cinemas in the US to stay open amid the coronavirus shutdown, or for would-be moviegoers to attend screenings.

The film, which cost nothing to produce and has since grossed an additional $150, premiered at the Laemmle Theaters in Los Angeles to purchased-but-unfilled seats. Now, the movie is playing at the Tampa Theatre until April 27, and has also been screened to empty seats at the Parkway Theater & Film Lounge outside Pittsburgh. Many tickets were bought with Monero—what else?

What’s Monero Means Money about?

The 88-minute film, directed and produced by Justin Ehrenhofer, is an unabridged keynote speech given by cryptocurrency expert Dr. Daniel Kim in December 2019. In it, Kim, who runs a crypto consultancy firm, extols the benefits of the privacy coin. “A surveillance state in which everybody’s financial transactions are tracked and surveilled and looked at is not an open society that we want to be living in,” he says in the film.

It cost the producers around $2,500 to put on the screenings. The profits—around $1,000—”will be used for publicity expenses or given to theaters, Ehrenhofer told Decrypt. His intentions were to raise awareness about privacy rights while supporting independent cinemas. And, of course, “this was an unprecedented opportunity to make the #1 box office film in the United States.”

The film premiered to rave reviews. It has a score of 8.9/10 on IMDB. (Once again, there’s a caveat: there are just seven ratings. Ehrenhofer said “I am not responsible for any of those ratings, and I do not know who rated the movie.”) 

“This fun experiment and achievement are a testament to belief in Monero and the strength of Monero’s community," said Ehrenhofer. "We hope it motivates others to discover Monero and to join the growing community.” 

Cryptocurrency is—slowly—beginning to make its mark in Hollywood. While 2019 saw Bitcoin used as a plot point in the thriller Crypto (which Decrypt called “paralyzingly slow”), upcoming productions include a TV drama based on the BBC podcast The Missing Cryptoqueen. Admittedly, it’s focusing on a famous crypto scam, but crypto's got to start somewhere.

Editor's note: This article has been amended after publication to show that the film no longer holds the #1 spot after a website revised its figures. The movie is now available online, for free, here