2016 Obama's America Movie: Box-Office Bomb or 'Arthouse' Hit?
Distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures, the same company that last year handled the distribution of the box office disaster Atlas Shrugged: Part I – so disastrous, in fact, that parts II and III were initially scrapped – 2016 Obama's America has to date taken in an estimated $2.06 million in North America.
Co-directed and co-written by author and commentator Dinesh D'Souza and producer John Sullivan (Ducks, The Hitchhiker), and based on D'Souza's book The Roots of Obama's Rage, 2016 Obama's America is just that: the United States under four more years of Barack Obama in the White House as seen through a right-wing prism. (I should add that one of the film's producers is Gerald R. Molen, who was also one of the producers of Steven Spielberg's Best Picture Oscar winner Schindler's List.)
Inevitably praised by far-right pundits, 2016 Obama's America has been mostly ignored elsewhere. The film, however, has the honor of having been noticed by the New York Times. Needless to say, that bastion of radical far-left thought (or so right-wingers claim) gave D'Souza and Sullivan's documentary a scathing review.
Referring to 2016 Obama's America as "strident," the Times' critic Andy Webster explained: "Eventually, we see blunt imagery like Benjamin Franklin's face on a burning $100 bill and a shot of the Statue of Liberty. Not interviewed by the filmmakers are Obama's political supporters, but this isn't that kind of documentary. At a show on Saturday night, the film's conclusion was met with claps and cries of 'Romney!,' 'Ron Paul!,' 'Reagan!' and 'Another Reagan!'"
Variety's Joe Leydon was equally unimpressed. "For the bulk of its running time," writes Leydon, 2016 Obama's America "comes off as a cavalcade of conspiracy theories, psycho-politico conjectures and incendiary labeling – 'breathtakingly anti-America' is only one of the epithets tossed about like so much confetti – as D'Souza and assorted interviewees question Obama's patriotism, deny his support of Israel, decry his Big Government programs, and generally recycle claims, charges and dire warnings D'Souza (and others) have previously promulgated in books, lectures, op-ed screeds and various Fox News guest appearances."
(In case you're wondering how Joe Leydon's negative take on 2016 Obama's America could be considered a "fresh tomato" on Rotten Tomatoes, that's further evidence of the inanity of that site's movie-review-labeling practices.)
2016 Obama's America movie box office
At one location in Texas, 2016 Obama's America collected $31,610 on its debut weekend, July 13-15. The addition of a handful of theaters in the next three weekends didn't necessarily lead to higher revenues, but an expansion to 61 locations on weekend no. 5 (Aug. 10-12) led to a surge in ticket sales, followed by another surge this past weekend (Aug. 17-19): $1.24 million at 169 sites, for a not inconsiderable $7,365 per-theater average.
2016 Obama's America was no. 13 on the domestic box office chart, right behind Seth MacFarlane / Mark Wahlberg's Ted – it should be noted that the top 12 movies were all screening at more than 1,000 theaters. Among the weekend's top 20 movies, 2016 Obama's America per-theater average trailed only those of Salman Khan's Hindi-language actioner Ek Tha Tiger ($9,495 at 120 locations) and Sylvester Stallone / Liam Hemsworth's The Expendables 2 ($8,622 at 3,316 locations).
So, is 2016 Obama's America an "arthouse" hit? Well, not exactly. Though not a downright bomb, after six weekends 2016 Obama's America has yet to reach its reported $2.5 million budget. (That should easily happen next weekend.) And bear in mind that the film has grossed less than half of Atlas Shrugged: Part I's $4.26m.
2016 America's Obama Movie vs. Atlas Shrugged
So, why was Atlas Shrugged: Part I a box office bomb? Because it cost a reported $20m. Directed by Paul Johansson, the critically massacred adaptation of the first third or so of Ayn Rand's mammoth novel featured Taylor Schilling as Dagny Taggart (Schilling is now much better known as Zac Efron's romantic interest in The Lucky One), Grant Bowler, and Michael O'Keefe. [Photo: Dinesh D'Souza and George Obama in 2016 Obama's America.]
Now, if accurate, 2016 Obama's America's tiny budget makes it a much safer commercial bet than something as ambitious as Atlas Shrugged. But then again, keep in mind that at least 50 percent of a film's box office gross goes to the exhibitors, and that 2016 Obama's America's $2.5 million production budget doesn't include distribution and marketing costs.
For comparison's sake: Atlas Shrugged's best weekend was its first, when the Ayn Rand adaptation raked in $1.68 million at 299 venues, averaging $5,640 per site. From then on, it was a steep downhill ride. Now, remember that all things being equal, the fewer the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be – hence, 2016 Obama's America's $7,365 average at 169 venues doesn't necessarily mean "a bigger success" than Atlas Shrugged.
Thus, at this stage it's unclear whether 2016 Obama's America will have enough stamina to allow for further expansions, or if the far-right fan base of Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan's documentary has already been exhausted. Next weekend will tell us.
2016 Obama's America vs. Fahrenheit 9/11
Wrapping this up: comparisons have been made between 2016 Obama's America and Michael Moore's global blockbuster Fahrenheit 9/11. But only a far-right lunatic could believe that 2016 Obama's America will achieve anything even remotely close to the success and prestige of Moore's effort, which earned $222.44 million worldwide in addition to dozens of awards.
In fact, chances of 2016 Obama's America finding any distribution – let alone finding success – outside the United States (and perhaps Canada?) are slim, as each country's right-wing crowd (and their fellow nationalists of whichever political persuasion) have their own local demons and heroes. They couldn't care less about those of their American counterparts.
Dinesh D'Souza and George Obama 2016 Obama's America photo: Rocky Mountain Pictures.