Talk about the power of good timing and word of mouth advertising. The hottest documentary to hit the big screen in a while, 2016: Obama’s America, has raked in over $20 million since its meager opening mid-July at a small theater in Houston. This past weekend, it was shown on 1,747 screen across the nation.
The movie, based on conservative author-turned-filmmaker Dinesh D’Souza’s bestselling book, explores what the future might look like with a second Obama term. In it, the Indian born scholar travels to four different continents to uncover Barack Obama’s past and learn what events and people have shaped the president’s view of the world and his vision for our country.
One of the most compelling aspects of the movie is the voiceover from Obama himself, taken both from his self-narrated audio book Dreams From My Father, as well as some of the numerous speeches he’s given over the years. The tagline is “Love Him, Hate Him, You Don’t Know Him,” and through the president’s own words and D’Souza’s travels, we begin to see a picture of Obama’s anti-colonial influences.
Some people have dubbed the documentary an “87-minute attack ad,” but it seems that it’s not just conservatives coming out in droves to watch it. Mark Joseph, whose company MJM Entertainment is marketing the movie, said via email:
The producers did some testing early on that yielded some surprising and counterintuitive results: it played very well among non-whites and independents ... There was speculation that that could be because Dinesh is himself a native of India and the high marks from independents were because he rejects birtherism and gives no quarter to the suggestion that the President isn't a Christian.
The surprise success of 2016 is a testament to the power of word of mouth advertising, and the desire of the American public to know more about the most secretive president in our history. The film had a negligible budget and an even smaller marketing stipend. It gained traction through some talk radio hosts, and good, old-fashioned, friends-telling-friends messaging.
Watch the trailer:
Have you seen 2016: Obama’s America yet? What do you think about this sleeper success?