Last Updated:November 29 @ 05:55 pm

'2016: Obama's America' very successful at the box office

By Derrik j. Lang

LOS ANGELES (AP) - It wasn't backed by any Hollywood movie studio. Reviews were mostly negative. It premiered in Houston, not Los Angeles or New York. And yet despite the unconventional release of "2016: Obama's America," the movie is now among the most successful political documentaries of all time - and it doesn't show signs of cooling down ahead of the presidential election.

The conservative film exploring the roots of President Barack Obama's political views surprised the film industry when it took in $6.5 million to land at No. 7 at last weekend's domestic box office ahead of three new releases: the Joseph Gordon-Levitt action flick "Premium Rush," the Kristen Bell comedy "Hit and Run" and the Ashley Greene horror film "The Apparition."

That makes "2016" the most successful conservative documentary of all time. It's also the sixth overall highest grossing political documentary behind four Michael Moore movies and former Vice President Al Gore's environmental film "An Inconvenient Truth." It all adds up to a remarkable triumph for an indie film that circumvented the liberal waters of Hollywood.

The film has continued to do well during the slower weekday period, especially considering that it's been up against the Republican National Convention in Tampa, Fla. Since last weekend, it earned an additional $5.9 million for a total of $12.4 million, placing No. 3 at the domestic box office on Wednesday.

Distributed by Salt Lake City-based Rocky Mountain Pictures, "2016" is directed by Dinesh D'Souza, a former staffer for President Ronald Reagan who is now president of King's College in New York and author of several books, including "The Roots of Obama's Rage," the basis for "2016" that claims Obama's beliefs are rooted in the anti-colonialism of his late father, a Kenyan academic who was largely absent from the president's life.

The film premiered July 13 on one screen in Houston and slowly expanded over the past month to 1,091 theaters in such cities as Nashville, Tenn.; Baton Rouge, La.; Denver; Phoenix; Wichita, Kan.; and Washington, D.C. MJM Entertainment's Mark Joseph, who is handling the film's marketing, attested that "2016" had to be promoted differently than typical Hollywood fare.

"You can't just throw up your star on Thursday night on a talk show," said Joseph. "That's not how this works. The traditionalist audience needed to hear about the film much sooner than what Hollywood is used to doing. It's also important that they heard about it from people that they trust and admire. It's a different way of engaging the audience."

Joseph and the film's co-director, John Sullivan, launched a stealthy campaign for the film that attracted the attention and support of right-wing superstars like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck. Buzz for the movie simmered over the summer, bubbling up last weekend before the Republican convention kicked off Tuesday.

"Timing is everything," said Greg Mueller, a conservative strategist whose public relations firm is promoting "The Hope and The Change," a film about voters who formerly supported Obama that debuted Tuesday at the Republican convention and is now available on DVD. "Timing is everything in politics. It's even more important in political documentaries."

"Fahrenheit 9/11," director Michael Moore's assault on President George W. Bush, opened at No. 1 with $23.9 million in June 2004, averaging $27,558 in 868 theaters. It went on to become the top-grossing documentary ever released with $119.1 million domestically, a world away from "2016's" haul so far.

While the release of "2016" just before the Republican convention and its portrait of a gloomy future if Obama is re-elected might make the film feel like an hour-and-a-half-long political ad, the "2016" filmmakers said they only received funding from private investors, not the Republican party, and the movie's proceeds aren't headed to Mitt Romney's presidential bid.

"We wanted none of their involvement," said Gerald Molen, the film's Montana-based producer who previously worked on such mainstream Hollywood movies like "Days of Thunder" and "Jurassic Park," and who won an Oscar for "Schindler's List" in 1993. "It wouldn't have made sense to do that." He added that the film's estimated $2.5 million budget only came from about two dozen donors supporting D'Souza.

Hollywood has long been inspired by the political process, and such an affinity usually burns brighter during election season when audiences are attuned to politics, whether it's through recent fictional fare like the USA miniseries "Political Animals" and the Will Ferrell comedy "The Campaign" or Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which came out before the 2004 election.

Alex Ben Block, a senior editor at The Hollywood Reporter doesn't think that "2016" will usher in a new era for right-wing films, but he believes the unexpected success of the conservative film might encourage likeminded filmmakers to carve out a similar path in landscape that was previously dominated by more liberal filmmakers like Moore. Ultimately, Block said moviegoers will vote at the box office with their dollars.

"`2016' has succeeded, but it's going to be very hard to duplicate," said Block. "These things are driven by politics and passion. They're driven by people who are trying to be noticed and make their point. It's a powerful combination when you have a documentary that can be both commercial and have a point of view."

Although "2016" has obviously found fans, most critics haven't been kind to the film. Newsday's Rafer Guzman called it an "attempt at character assassination." The Arizona Republic's Bill Goodykoontz deemed it "an exercise in preaching to the choir." The Los Angeles Times' Betsy Sharkey lambasted "2016" for being a "sluggish film" whose "outrage falls flat."

"I think `2016' has a nice gimmick because it purports to show what the future will look like right there in the title," said film critic Ben Mankiewicz, who dismissed the film as an actual documentary and is unsure what its unexpected success means for the film industry. "I think it is another reminder of how many people in this country find Obama so shockingly unlikesome that they are seemingly ready to believe the most nonsensical theories about him."

Many of the assertions D'Souza makes in the film to support his point that Obama's presidency is an expression of his father's third-world political beliefs don't hold up, including that Obama removed a bust of British Prime Minister Winston Churchill from the Oval Office because Churchill represented British colonialism and that Obama has "done nothing" to impede Iran's nuclear ambitions. And there are other instances where the film takes liberties with the facts.

"I don't necessarily agree with everything that's in the movie," said Arthur Hobbs, a retired engineer who caught a Monday matinee of the film in Los Angeles with his wife after reading about it online. "But I do think that we really don't know everything about Obama, even after he's been in office for four years. I think that's why we needed to see this movie."

Molen said he expected the bad reviews. The filmmakers, who plan to expand the film to even more cities in the coming weeks and keep it in theaters until early October, aren't fazed by any negative reaction. They just hope now that conservative audiences have found "2016," perhaps left-leaning moviegoers will be curious enough to buy a ticket.

"My wish is that people see the film and make an informed decision," said Molen. "I would love people to see the film and come out of it saying, `I need to know more. I need to find out more about this country and what we're designing for our kids, grandkids and great grandkids.' I just want this film to spark an interest in people to find out more."

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'2016: Obama's America' very successful at the box office, 9.7 out of 10 based on 119 ratings

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  1. bbarrett49Comment by bbarrett49
    September 1, 2012 @ 9:06 am

    why would the lap dog reviewers agree with anything that clint eastwood would like or conservative america? they dont count. what is between los angels and nyc counts. that is where the ”real” people lie

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    Rating: 4.8/5 (30 votes cast)
  2. jdb121Comment by jdb121
    September 1, 2012 @ 10:02 am

    There has been longstanding curiosity about Obama since he amazingly eclipsed Clinton for the Dem nod in 2008. All the questions concerning compliance with U.S. law from birth certificate issue, through all the other documentation about which doubts have been raised. Liberal thought and policies have always been seen by Christians and conservatives to skirt, if not outright violate, the law. Moral principles are fundamentally at issue. Given his education, his youth in foreign countries, a non-citizen father, the information that has been viewed on the web concerning his mother, the association factors with individuals of philosophical and ideological inclinations that have historically been very antithetical to democratic principles of governance, isn’t it understandable that people would be curious about the truth about a guy who has done so much to prevent the truth about himself from being known? People hide things to avoid the consequences that would result from disclosure. The American people have a right, even an obligation, to know who the man is, what his history is and why his position on the law is what it is. After all, he is the chief law enforcement officer of the country.

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  3. donvoterComment by donvoter
    September 1, 2012 @ 10:35 am

    I think that a system that allows somebody with no qualifications to run for president it is flawed.
    We also also have convicted criminals running or sitting in office. That s not Democracy that’s stupid.


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  4. avonlady1Comment by avonlady1
    September 1, 2012 @ 10:40 am

    We need to support this movie by voting with our dollars. If we want to see more truth telling movies unlike the false ones by Michael Moore and John Kerry then we need to support this and make it a success. One thing I observed in this article is all of the negative reviews are by left wing publications. Hummmm gives pause for thought.
    I am going to see it this week for several reasons including wanting to make a statement, wanting to support a conservative truth based film, and most of all I have heard from several that have seen it that it is well done, interesting and answers a lot of unanswered questions. I agree with the poster above that there is much that we don’t know about Obama and pieces of the puzzle that just does not fit. Why has Obama spent big money having his college records sealed. What could possibly be there that he does not want out? Could it be how he got his scholarship? Hummmmmm! more questions than answers due to coverups and lack of media attention. So support this movie and further more take a democrat with you!

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    • sparkyvaComment by sparkyva
      September 1, 2012 @ 1:32 pm

      Once Obama no longer has the reins of power, there will be lots of books and films about this man. Lets see how much money he has to spend to block a congressional subpena of his records lol…

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      Rating: 5.0/5 (18 votes cast)
  5. middlegroundComment by middleground
    September 1, 2012 @ 11:23 am

    As one who actually saw the movie, I felt that compared to extremist Liberal movies like those produced by Moore and Gore, it was remarkably accurate and objective.

    Of course there was the hint that Obama had inherited anger and prejudice against this country and the capitalistic system from his Communist mentors, but anyone with a brain in their head and the ability to examine Obama’s actions during the last 4 years should be able to figure that out for themselves. As a Washington Lobbyist during the Carter years said of Carter: “He was so indebted to contributors that he couldn’t even appoint his own cabinet.” When I was told that I immediately thought it explained Carter’s energy policy as being the result of contributions from OPEC. I feel this criticism could also be applied to president Obama who seems to be doing everything possible to keep us importing foreign oil and natural gas as well as shipping coal and domestic oil to China while as the same time reducing funding for the only real clean energy project — the international fusion energy project.

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    • sexysadieComment by sexysadie
      September 1, 2012 @ 4:50 pm

      obummer is doing everything possible to keep us mainlining foreign oil is because he has saudi blood running through his veins…

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    • camzComment by camz
      September 2, 2012 @ 7:40 am

      “but anyone with a brain in their head”. BINGO!

      Obama isn’t the problem. His sheep are the problem.

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      Rating: 4.6/5 (8 votes cast)
  6. lanimom229Comment by lanimom229
    September 1, 2012 @ 12:12 pm

    I saw the film this week. It was a sobering expose on the person now sitting as president of the FREE WORLD. Perhaps it does preach to the choir, but as I have recently been reminded, after time we do tend to forget the past. So get out your wallets put a few hard earned dollars down and go see this film. As one of the bloggers before mentioned take a former BHO voter with you.

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  7. TucsonTerpFanComment by TucsonTerpFan
    September 1, 2012 @ 1:16 pm

    Just a note about AP writer Derrik j.(sic) Lang’s story.

    Notice this line: “[T]he film [has] attracted the attention and support of right-wing superstars like Rush Limbaugh and Glenn Beck.” There’s also the term “right-wing films” in the story.

    Seldom do you see the label “left-wing” in news stories. Even Michael Moore who’s noted in this story does not get the title, “left-wing,” and his pictures mentioned are not dubbed “left-wing films.”

    It’s subtle bias; however, because today it comes so naturally to too many “journalists,” I’m sure the AP writer does not even know his “agenda” may be showing.

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    • sparkyvaComment by sparkyva
      September 1, 2012 @ 1:35 pm

      Yep, I notice he didn’t buy into the explanation for the removal of Churchill’s bust, but there is really no other believable explanation.

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  8. vevaComment by veva
    September 1, 2012 @ 1:18 pm

    Dinesh Souza seems like a very sharp and articulate person. One of the best to carry a conversation with an ‘interviewer’. Usually the press controls it – but not with him. I want to view the film, don’t yet know if it is showing in Colorado. Let’s all support it, if you can!

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    • lanimom229Comment by lanimom229
      September 1, 2012 @ 1:24 pm

      Hello Comment to VEVA – Go to your local movie sites-call your local theatres for viewing information. Tell your family, coworkers and church family to go see this film. If they are not going to play the movie DEMAND IT!
      Good luck and happy movie viewing

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    • sparkyvaComment by sparkyva
      September 1, 2012 @ 1:37 pm

      Agreed with Lanimom229. Our local theater is not advertizing it yet, but is promising to carry it in two weeks. There are not many films they can get that can fill up the theater for night after night…

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    • patriot077Comment by patriot077
      September 1, 2012 @ 6:26 pm
      This is a link that shows the current line up for your state.

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  9. Mary MurphyComment by Mary Murphy
    September 1, 2012 @ 1:55 pm

    Haven’t seen the movie “2016″ yet but have read revues both negative and positive. Knowing Desouza’s work I am sure it is well researched. One thing they are calling a lie, that the bust of Winston Churchill wasn’t returned to the English has already been proven, it is now in the British embassy in Washington. The “left” doesn’t necessarily deal in facts. I can only believe that there is truth there since Obama remained affiliated with a church whose pastor cursed America, until it threatened his campaign for the White House. So we need to think for ourselves and face all the facts. As a lifelong republican I didn’t vote for Obama but when he was elected president, I wished him well for the benefit of the country. That hasn’t worked out, so we need to elect someone who really loves his country.

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    • avonlady1Comment by avonlady1
      September 1, 2012 @ 2:53 pm

      Well said Mary! Do your country a favor give tickets as gifts to family and friends who might be Obama voters. I feel there is more truth revealed in this movie than not considering Obama has stayed quiet on the matter.

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    • cxComment by genesal
      September 1, 2012 @ 3:27 pm

      White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer blasted back Friday, saying the statue remains in the White House, but has moved positions to a hallway outside the Treaty Room, in the president’s residence.

      But late Friday, British Embassy Spokesman James Barbour said there were actually two busts of Churchill, both by artist Sir Jacob Epstein.

      The one that was loaned to the George W. Bush administration in 2001 was returned after Bush left office and now resides at the British ambassador’s residence in Washington.

      A second bust, which is part of the White House’s own art collection, is displayed in the White House. It is that bust which Obama is pictured looking at with Cameron in 2010.

      On Thursday, the bust was referred to on the campaign trail during remarks Mitt Romney made in London.

      “I’m looking forward to the bust of Winston Churchill being in the Oval Office again,” Romney told a crowd of supporters at the Mandarin Oriental in Knightsbridge. Romney did not say or suggest the bust had ever left the White House.

      GO MITT!

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  10. craig4truthComment by craig4truth
    September 1, 2012 @ 1:56 pm

    This film is a gripping,sober,and profoundly insightful window into Obama’s character,motivation, and worldview. The majority of material presented is given in Obama’s own spoken word from his autobiography, Dreams from My Father. The content of the film shows impeccable accuracy about his life,associations that formed him and worldview. Having read many scholars in field about Obama and his autobiography,they have captured Obama even with his sequestered past. I highly recommended this film to friends and family.

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  11. Pingback: Update-2016 Obama’s America |

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