The WaPo looks at the cultural impact that "Milk" has had. It hasn't made much money; $27 million at the box office.
But my feeling is that it has had, and, more importantly, will have, a dramatic impact. The article points out that it has had a great impact on the younger generation, providing them a glimpse of what the gay rights movement was like back in the day. Because, let's face it, this movie is better than anything that will ever show up in even the most progressive high school textbooks.
As for the impact on the straight population? I think it will be nothing but good, largely because it's such a sweet, positive movie. The scene where he picks up James Franco is one of the most wonderful seduction scenes you will ever see, because it's just so obviously love at first sight. Sean Penn plays Harvey Milk as just a peach of a guy, the kind of man anybody would love to have as their neighbor or coworker or brother-in-law or friend. He's smart, funny, honest, brave and compassionate. What's not to love?
But there is one simple fact about Harvey Milk that may be the most inspiring, and which he had no control over. He is an American, and his story is a quintessentially American story. It's a story about love and freedom. What could be more American?