No matter how you slice it, the conservative documentary, “2016: Obama’s America” stole Sylvester Stallone’s thunder by running away with the per-screen average. If this were a boxing match, the announcer would have retorted that pound for pound this movie was this week’s champion.
The $5,940 per-screen average posted by “2016: Obama’s America” was easily the best among films playing widely. “Expendables 2″ stayed on top in its second week with $13.2 million averaging $3,950 from 3,355 theaters.
The documentary purports to tell what things will be like should the president be re-elected. Distributor Rocky Mountain Pictures expanded it into 1,091 theaters (from 169 last week) just in time to cash in on the buzz surrounding the Republican National Convention.
“2016: Obama’s America” is based on conservative author Dinesh D’Souza’s book, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage.” D’Souza co-directed with John Sullivan. Produced for a reported $2.1 million, it has made $9.3 million since its release seven weeks ago, and has surpassed ‘Bully” as the year’s top-earning documentary.
Director Sullivan has appeared on Fox News and the Discovery Channel to promote the film and conservative commentators Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh have lauded it. Beck called it an election-season bomb, similar to Michael Moore’s 2004 film “Farenheit 9/11,” which was highly critical of President George W. Bush.
In the Mid-South, “2016: Obama’s America” was the top film at the five theaters in which it was booked. In comparison, “The Expendables 2” was expendable, and “Premium Rush” was second-rate and slow.
“This is amazing; nobody expected it,” said theater owner Ambarish Keshani, who said the movie was the top earner at not just his CinePlanet 16 in Atoka but his two multiplexes in Jackson, Tenn., the Cinema Planet 10 and the Hollywood 16. “The film industry people who saw it in advance thought it was a piece of junk.”
“We certainly didn’t anticipate the film opening to the degree it did,” said Jeff Kaufman, senior vice president of Malco Theatres Inc., the Memphis-based chain that booked “Obama’s America” into two theaters, the Wolfchase Galleria Cinema 8 and the Collierville Towne 16.
He said the movie would move from the Wolfchase to the more centrally located and popular Paradiso theater on Friday, and also open on a screen at the DeSoto Cinema 16 in Southaven.
Yvonne Burton, active in the Mid-South Tea Party, was among those who attended a packed opening-night screening of “Obama’s America” at the Collierville Theater. She said the film presents an alternative to “the mainstream media” by demonstrating that Obama’s “viewpoint of governing” is “anti-America, anti-captalism.”
Van Turner, chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party, said tickets sold doesn’t equal votes cast. “I don’t think the movie accurately reflects what Americans truly feel. If you look at the polls, you’ll see President Obama is still ahead.”
Directed by Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan, “2016: Obama’s America” is based on D’Souza’s 2010 best-seller, “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” in which D’Souza writes that Obama’s political philosophy was inculcated into him by his father, a “philandering, inebriated African socialist, who raged against the world for denying him the realization of his anti-colonial ambitions.”
Critics say the movie is biased and inaccurate. Supporters say the film adds balance to a movie culture that has long made room for such “liberal” documentaries as “An Inconvenient Truth” and “Bowling for Columbine,” both Oscar-winners.In its second week in release, “The Expendables 2” is on 3,355 screens, while “The Bourne Legacy,” in its third week, is on 3,654. “Obama’s America” is on 1,091 screens.
Earning $13.5 million this past weekend, “The Expendables 2” was the No. 1 movie at the box office. Spread across three times as many locations as “Obama’s America,” the Sylvester Stallone actioner earned $4,000 per screen, while the documentary collected $5,700 per location, for a weekend total of $6.2 million (8th place on the box-office chart).
“Obama’s America” is the third “conservative” documentary to open in Memphis this year, all distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures. “An Inconsistent Truth,” an anti-Al Gore, climate-change-denying documentary by Nashville talk radio host Phil Valentine, opened Feb. 17 on one screen, but bombed. “Runaway Slave,” about the “black conservative” movement, opened Aug. 17 on a single screen; it drew some customers its first weekend, but sold a total of $190 in tickets this past weekend.
Kaufman said “Obama’s America” benefited from smart timing: The movie opened during the so-called “dog days” of August, without competition from a single new Hollywood blockbuster. “That, combined with the Republican convention beginning this week, made this a perfect opportunity for the movie to perform well.”
The following from one through ten reflect total box office receipts for last weekend:
1. The Expendables 2, $13.5 million; 2. The Bourne Legacy, $9.3 million; 3. ParaNorman, $8.5 million; 4. The Campaign, $7.4 million; 5. The Dark Knight Rises, $7.2 million; 6. The Odd Life of Timothy Green, $7.1 million; 7. Premium Rush, $6.3 million; 8. 2016: Obama’s America, $6.2 million; 9. Hope Springs, $6 million; 10. Hit & Run, $4.7 million.
While “The Expendables grossed more revenue, “2016: Obama’s America” topped all movies averaging $5,940 per screen.