Despite only showing in one theater in Texas over the weekend and a "low key" protest from some moviegoers who were upset about the film's subject matter, "2016: Obama's America," a documentary very critical of the president, outperformed projections and grossed an estimated $31,750, a solid turnout for an independent release at a single theater.
The film has been generating plenty of buzz. For example, according to the Hollywood Reporter, people crammed into Edwards Houston Marq'E Stadium 23 & Imax for Thursday's free promotional screening, even sitting in the aisles to watch the film. And management still had to turn away about 200 people.
The documentary, based on Dinesh D'Souza's book "The Roots of Obama's Rage," features an interview with President Obama's impoverished half-brother, George Obama, and sheds light on the president's relationship with his avowed communist mentor Frank Marshall Davis.
More from the Hollywood Reporter:
Sources say some moviegoers sat in the aisles Thursday and waited as much as 90 minutes to meet D’Souza and Gerald Molen, one of the Oscar-winning producers of Schindler’s List, who was a co-producer of 2016 along with Doug Sain. For some of its regular showings over the weekend, the theater offered 2016 on multiple screens, including three sold-out auditoriums for the 7 p.m. Friday showing.
If the weekend estimate from the movie’s distributor, Rocky Mountain Pictures, holds when final numbers are reported Monday, the film will have bested the per-theater number posted by the Al Gore documentary about global warming, An Inconvenient Truth, which opened to $123,549 in four theaters in 2006 for a per-theater average of $30,887.
That film, which had the benefit of a mainstream distributor in Paramount Vantage and, eventually, two Oscar wins, went on to earn $24 million domestically. The box-office record for politically-charged documentaries is held by Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, which grossed $119 million domestically in 2004. It opened on a Wednesday, in just two theaters, taking in $83,922 on its first day, for a one-day, per-theater average of $41,961. Still, for any documentary to pass the $25,000-per-theater mark on its opening weekend represents an unusually strong showing, according to box office observers.
In fact, the only movies that outgrossed "2016" over the weekend at the Houston theater were "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Ice Age: Continental Drift," according to Sain.
“We’re getting tremendous media coverage and box office results. More than, frankly, we ever hoped for,” Sain said. “We thought we’d be really lucky with $15,000 for the entire week, but we doubled that in just this weekend.”
The manager of the Houston theater said they received numerous phone calls from people who argued they shouldn't show the documentary.
"His response was, 'We don’t make movies, we just show them,'" Sain said.
The manager reportedly compared the reaction to "2016" to the release of Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" but added the dissent was not as intense as when "Passion of the Christ" opened in 2004, Sain said. The manager told Sain that people had to be removed by security for disrupting during the controversial Mel Gibson movie.
“So they weren’t flying by the seat of their pants with '2016.' They know how to respond to controversy,” Sain added.
Some people "were around the box office wearing pro Obama tees to express their view," Regal spokesman Russ Nunley told the Hollywood Reporter. He called the protest "very low key and not confrontational."
According to the Hollywood Reporter, "2016" is scheduled to open in 120 theaters on July 27, but Sain said Rocky Mountain Pictures may increase that number to 400 theaters due to the film's popularity.
Watch the film's trailer, below.