'2016: Obama's America' Filmmakers Claim Organized Disinformation Campaign
UPDATED: The movie showed up on YouTube over the weekend as rumors spread it would also be shown free on the Fox News Channel.
The filmmakers behind 2016: Obama’s America are claiming a coordinated attack engineered by supporters of Barack Obama to suppress the box-office results of the movie, which is a critical look at the president.
The film, the second-highest-grossing political documentary in U.S. box-office history, has made $32 million domestically since opening in mid July but took in only $938,000 during the recent weekend for a per-screen average of $771, down 27 percent from $1,060 per screen in the previous weekend, according to BoxOfficeMojo. Overall, the movie's boxoffice dropped 53 percent in the most recent weekend compared with the previous one, its largest decline since opening 10 weeks ago.
While such a drop isn't unusual for a movie during the course of a week -- especially when the theater count dropped from 1,876 to 1,216 -- filmmakers nevertheless say box-office results were artificially depressed for two reasons: a disinformation campaign spreading the false rumor that Fox News Channel would be showing the movie in its entirety Sunday and a pirated version of the film showing up on YouTube this weekend.
“Saturday morning, I started getting e-mails from groups and individuals either warning me about the piracy of 2016: Obama’s America or thanking me for allowing the movie to go online,” said Randy Slaughter, president of Rocky Mountain Pictures, the film’s distributor.
Filmmakers said they notified the FBI that the movie was available illegally and that they notified YouTube of a copyright breach, prompting the user to take down the film.
“We take this issue very seriously and are in contact with the FBI to investigate the parties that placed this on the Internet,” said John Sullivan, who co-wrote and co-directed the movie with Dinesh D’Souza.
Concerning the prospect of the film airing on FNC, some websites including SmartGirlPolitics.com, apologized for being a conduit for misinformation.
“Last night we were made aware that someone posted an erroneous blog post on our user blogs regarding the movie 2016 being shown on Fox News,” wrote the website's president, Stacy Mott. “It was immediately taken down, but unfortunately, a handful of people had already responded to it through Twitter. This was not, in any way, something posted by Smart Girl Politics or any member of our team.”
Over the weekend, there also were mass e-mails making the claim that Fox News was about to air the movie for free.
“Fox News is going to air the documentary Obama 2016. To all Americans, Democrat, Independents, right or left, heads up for this Sunday night,” one email reads.
“Important. Looks that Fox News is going to air the documentary Obama 2016. Heads up for this Sunday night 9:00 p.m.,” reads another.
A spokesperson for Fox News confirmed the cable channel has no plans to air the movie.
“The reports of the movie appearing on Fox before the election are completely untrue, and we strongly suspect that they are the result of dirty tricks by our opponents who spread this rumor in order to confuse the general public and keep them from going to their local theaters," said D’Souza.
Separately on Monday, Lionsgate Home Entertainment said it will release the movie Oct. 16 on DVD and Oct. 12 on pay-per-view.