Obama Film Packs Theater in Newport

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“2016: Obama’s America,” a political documentary by filmmakers Dinesh D’Souza and John Sullivan that examines the president in a critical light, is making waves and selling tickets here in Newport Beach.

So much so, the film was moved into the 1,000-seat “Big Newport” theater this week, which is catching the eye of locals from all sides of the political spectrum.

The marquee at the Edwards Newport Center theater complex touts “2016: Obama’s America,” which started in a smaller theater but has been moved to the big screen because of robust ticket sales. Photo by Eric Longabardi

The film opened at the Newport movie house about three weeks ago. At first it played in smaller theaters at the same Edwards theater complex, before being moved into the largest venue based on its robust ticket sales.

The film’s content, not surprisingly, is something that is being hotly debated on the political front from all sides. But that political debate is taking a backseat to ticket sales, at least here in Newport Beach.

Anyone driving by the Fashion Island theater’s large marquee  can see the film is now being prominently touted to the public as the primary draw to moviegoers at the Fashion Island theater.

The Big Newport theater, part of the Edwards theater complex at Newport Center, boasts a 40-by-80-foot movie screen, the largest on the West Coast. The theater also is one of the largest in capacity, seating just more than 1,000 people. The theater has long been known to locals and moviegoers around Orange County and Southern California as the premier place to see blockbuster Hollywood movies because of the combination of huge screen size and the sound quality that the theater offers.

As for the movie itself , it initially opened nationally at a single theater in Houston, Texas, in July. Large crowds there led to it being rolled out across the country in mid-August. It is now playing at more than 1,700 theaters nationwide.

According to Box Office Mojo, a movie business tracking site, the movie dropped from the seventh-highest grossing movie in the country last week, to the No. 9 spot this week. Just being in the Top 10 is a rare spot for a documentary of any kind.

According to Box Office Mojo, “2016: Obama’s America” has grossed just over $18 million since its release. That makes it the fourth-highest grossing political documentary of all time. Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” and “Sicko” and Al Gore’s “An Inconvenient Truth” are the only political documentaries to take in more money. The Obama film seems poised to potentially overtake the latter two films and grab the No. 2 slot before its run is over.

The Independent spoke with film’s co-director, John Sullivan, this week to ask him about the business the film is doing here in Newport and its upgrade into the larger theater, over other more standard Hollywood entertainment fare.

Sullivan said he was unaware of the change of venue here, but the movie’s producers targeted Los Angeles, Southern California and Orange County as a prime area for the film nationally.

When asked about Newport’s reputation as a bastion of “right-wing” Republicans, Sullivan said that ticket sales across the country, including in places like Chicago, New York and other less-Republican locations, dispel the notion that the movie is only appealing to a hardcore right-wing audience.

“People from across the political spectrum are seeing this movie,” Sullivan stated, despite what he says in the mainstream media’s attempt to ignore it.

Here in Newport, according to sources familiar with the Big Newport box office numbers, the crowds have been consistent and steady, especially during the week. Generally, movies do most of the business on weekends.

When asked about who was coming to see the movie, a knowledgeable source, who spoke on condition his name not be used as he was not authorized to speak by the movie theater chain, said, “The people coming to see the movie here are mostly an older local Newport audience … and they seem to be coming to see the movie knowing what it is all about.”

Suzanne Savary, the president of the Newport Beach Democratic Women’s Club, told the Independent that although she hasn’t seen the movie yet and was out town this past week, it did grab her attention when she drove by and saw the Big Newport marquee with “2016: Obama’s America” being touted so prominently.

Savary says her members haven’t been talking about the movie much, but that a local friend she described as a “moderate Republican” has told her about the film saying, “You’re not going to like it.”

Whether or not she and other members of the group will go see the film, she says “is still up in the air.”

The movie is expected to continue showing at the Big Newport theater at least through next Thursday, according to theater sources. Presently it is screening five times a day.


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  1. I thought the movie was well documented and well done. I did feel sick when it ended and thought i might throw up. It is hard to understand how so many people have their heads in the sand and fail to acknowledge even the President’s own words and their implications. How can so many favor a good speech over good policy?

  2. Eric, there are typos in your article, sadly. The biggest one is, “before it’s run is over.” (Reading ‘before it is run is over.) (It should read ‘before its run is over.”) Several others too. The word “it’s” always stands for “it is.” The term “its” is possessive, as in his, hers, its.

    Love the content of the article. As a former court reporter, I am disturbed that journalists no longer seem to know the English language or proper punctuation.