The rightwing agit-prop doc “2016: Obama’s America,” a movie so full of conjecture and hole-y logic it makes a Michael Moore movie look like the phone book, has finally reached its box-office peak over the Labor Day Weekend, declining 14% in ticket sales from the previous week’s stellar box office. So far, the movie’s domestic gross is still a widely impressive $20.2 million — an astounding number for a movie that has been universally panned by critics (a 35% rating on Rotten Tomatoes). But, of course, neither the movie’s quality, nor its accuracy, nor its racism, matters to ticket buyers. They just want to show their disaffection for the current President.
Currently playing across a wide 1,747 theaters, the movie has obviously played into rightwing ferver and conspiracy theories attacking President Obama. Comparisons have been made to “Fahrenheit 9/11,” but the true model for “2016: Obama’s America” is Mel Gibson’s “Passion of the Christ,” similarly released during an election cycle and similarly embraced by America’s conservative masses. Once again, I should reiterate that U.S. moviegoers are not surprisinginly conservative, and that the triumph of a right-wing movie is not the exception, it’s the rule. (“Passion of the Christ” made $370 million in the U.S.; “Fahrenheit” made $119 million.) Conservations love to play the victim and the underdog, but the success of a rightwing diatribe is not news. Speaking of news, Fox remains the reigning cable network in the nation, but no one seems to be writing headlines about that.
But credit does need to be given to the distributors of “2016: Obama’s America”; $20 million is a lot of money for a film with mostly talking heads. And once its run is over, it’ll probably make closer to $30 million, putting it firmly in the nonfiction record books, and undoubtedly sparking a wave of imitators. And that is perhaps the scariest part of the success of the movie. Right-wing docs aren’t rare, but with the template set forward by “Obama’s America,” you can bet a whole lot of filmmakers and distributors are going to try to replicate its success with similarly mediocre fare. If Obama is reelected, the anger that’s fueled the film’s success will surely be as rabid. But I’ll take that over four years with Romney and Ryan.