LOS ANGELES (AP) – Hollywood may have run out of summer hits, but an anti-Obama documentary is helping to fill the gap.
Holdover movies easily topped the weekend box office again, led by Sylvester Stallone’s “The Expendables 2” at No. 1 for the second-straight weekend with $13.5 million.
The weekend’s new wide releases were overshadowed by “2016: Obama’s America,” which expanded from limited to nationwide release and took in $6.2 million to finish at No. 8.
The documentary is a conservative critique of what the country would look like four years from now if President Barack Obama is re-elected.
Released by Rocky Mountain Pictures, “Obama’s America” nearly matched the $6.3 million debut of the No. 7 movie, Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s action tale “Premium Rush,” a Sony release that played in more than twice as many theaters as the Obama documentary.
The weekend’s other new wide releases opened weakly. Dax Shepard and Kristen Bell’s road-chase comedy “Hit & Run,” released by Open Road Films, debuted at No. 10 with $4.7 million, and the Warner Bros. fright flick “The Apparition” opened at No. 12 with $3 million.
The weak openings are typical of late August, a dumping ground for movies without much audience appeal as the summer blockbuster season winds down and young viewers switch to back-to-school mode.
But with less competition from Hollywood releases, it also opens the door for surprise successes such as “Obama’s America.”
“It’s extremely rare for a documentary to break into the top-10, but August can be a land of opportunity for smaller films,” said Paul Dergarabedian, box-office analyst for Hollywood.com. “Also, there’s the fact that this is a very conservative film. Normally, it’s Michael Moore-branded documentaries, the liberal documentaries that make all the money.”
“Obama’s America” opened in a handful of theaters in mid-July and did strong business as it gradually widened to more cities. It jumped into the top-10 this weekend as it expanded into 1,091 theaters, leading all other wide releases with an average of $5,717 a cinema.
That’s a solid average, especially for a political documentary. But it pales next to the king of political documentaries, Moore’s George W. Bush assault “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which opened at No. 1 with $23.9 million in June 2004, averaging $27,558 in 868 theaters. “Fahrenheit 9/11” went on to become the top-grossing documentary ever with $119.1 million domestically.
“Obama’s America” is based on the book “The Roots of Obama’s Rage,” written by Dinesh D’Souza, who co-directed the movie with John Sullivan.
The documentary now has climbed to a $9.1 million domestic total, with prospects for strong business as the Republican National Convention unfolds over the next few days.
D’Souza said Sunday that “Obama’s America” will expand to more cities in the coming weeks and probably remain in theaters until early October, likely followed by a DVD release in the homestretch leading up to the Nov. 6 election.
Conservatives probably account for most of the documentary’s audience so far, D’Souza said. But as with “Fahrenheit 9/11,” which drew many conservatives out of curiosity, the attention “Obama’s America” now is receiving could prompt left-leaning viewers to check it out, he said.
“What’s happening is that people are really hungry for new information about Obama. There really is this sense that he remains an elusive figure,” D’Souza said. “Then there’s a second sense that the American dream is in the balance, the American dream is at stake, and that gives people a sense of anxiety about where the country is going.”
Released by Lionsgate, “The Expendables 2” raised its domestic total to $52.3 million after two weekends.
In limited release, IFC Films’ “Sleepwalk with Me” had a huge debut with $77,400 in a single New York City theater. Produced and co-written by Ira Glass of National Public Radio’s “This American Life,” ”Sleepwalk with Me” stars writer-director Mike Birbiglia in a semi-autobiographical story of a stand-up comic struggling with career and romance, along with bad bouts of sleepwalking.
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