2016 movie box office: Labor Day weekend drop despite major expansion
The "2016 movie," Dinesh D'Souza and John Sullivan's documentary 2016 Obama's America, was down 14 percent (not 22 percent as studio estimates indicated) this past Labor Day weekend despite the addition of 656 North American venues (from 1,091 to 1,747 sites). At no. 9 on the domestic box office chart, the 2016 movie collected $5.6 million – $500,000 above reported estimates – according to weekend box office actuals found at Box Office Mojo. (Image: U.S. president Barack Obama in the 2016 movie poster.)
Right before and throughout the Republican National Convention, held last week in Tampa, Florida, the right-wing documentary based on Dinesh D'Souza's book The Roots of Obama's Rage had an impressive run in the United States. Following a successful expansion ten days ago, 2016 Obama's America soared to the no. 2 slot on the domestic box office chart on Monday, Aug. 27, and remained among the top five movies for the rest of the week.
But now that the RNC is a thing of the past – though the Clint Eastwood anti-Obama "speech" will likely be remembered for some time – 2016 Obama's America has lost steam. Following this weekend's expansion, which amounted to a 60 percent increase in number of venues, the 2016 movie was down the aforementioned 14 percent, thus suffering a 46 percent per-theater-average drop-off rate (not 51 percent as reported estimates indicated), from $5,966 to $3,211.
2016 movie: Good news and bad news
The good news: the 2016 movie's drop-off rate was lower than initially reported. The bad news: 2016 Obama's America was still down this past weekend despite having added 60 percent more theaters and even though this past Sunday preceded a major holiday – which means softer drop-off rates.
There are no two ways of looking at this sort of data. Sturdy successful movies will either increase or maintain their theater count until per-theater averages start going down dramatically. An average in the low $3,000s does not leave room for another major expansion unless Rocky Mountain Pictures and U.S. exhibitors don't mind screening 2016 Obama's America at near-empty theaters.
And bear in mind that the Gilroy / Renner thriller was initially screening at nearly 1,900 more venues than 2016 Obama's America. All things being equal, the lower the number of theaters, the higher the per-theater average should be. My point: barring a miraculous resurgence, the 2016 movie has already reached its box office peak and is now on its way down.
Absurd comparisons with Fahrenheit 9/11
Now, to compare 2016 Obama's America's second wide weekend drop-off rate to that of Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11, whose per-theater average was down 66 percent on its second weekend out, is, at best, an exercise in futility.
In early summer 2004, Moore's anti-George W. Bush / anti-the United States' faux "Liberal" media / anti-Iraq War / anti-Britney Spears documentary opened with an unheard of (for a documentary) $27,558 (approx. $35,600 today) per-theater average at 898 locations. The following weekend, Fahrenheit 9/11 nearly doubled its number of theaters, to 1,725 (vs. 2016 Obama's America's 60 percent increase), while competing with Sam Raimi / Tobey Maguire / Kirsten Dunst's megablockbuster Spider-Man 2.
Needless to say, with $88.15 million (approx. $114 million today), Spider-Man 2 fully dominated the North American box office over the July 4 weekend. Though its box office gross was down a hefty 32 percent, Fahrenheit 9/11 still managed an incredible (for a documentary in wide release) $9,438 per-theater average (approx. $12,200 today).
This year, 2016 Obama's America had no Spider-Man-like competition. Although Ole Bornedal's The Possession overperformed, the horror flick raked in only $17.73 million. Nor was D'Souza and Sullivan's 2016 movie coming off an "unheard of" opening-weekend box office performance. Though remarkable for a political documentary, a $5,966 per-theater average at 1,091 venues is hardly jaw-dropping. And remember: adjusted for inflation, Fahrenheit 9/11's second-weekend per-theater average was nearly four times the 2016 movie's on its second wide-release weekend. [See also "2016 Obama's America vs. Fahrenheit 9/11: NO Comparison."]
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Barack Obama 2016 Obama's America ("2016 movie") poster: Rocky Mountain Pictures.