Republicans Show Greater Support for Benghazi Thriller at Box Office

13 Hours
Courtesy of Paramount

If you went to see “13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi” this weekend, chances are you won’t be voting for Hillary Clinton in the next presidential election.

Michael Bay’s account of the security team tasked with defending the American diplomatic compound in Libya from a 2012 terrorist attack, has become the latest example of the polarized nature of the electorate and, by extension, the moviegoing public. Like “American Sniper” before it, the action thriller has emerged as a rallying point for those on the right and a punching bag for others on the left.

“With these war films, the real life drama that surrounds them is central to their appeal,” said Jeff Bock, an analyst with Exhibitor Relations. “This is another film about a hot button issue.”

“13 Hours'” box office performance reflected the film’s divisive nature. The action thriller did well in red states, generating 41% of the $19 million it stands to make this weekend from theaters in the South. Those areas out-performed blue states by 25%. Most other releases this weekend made up 33% of their grosses in these regions.

Paramount, the studio behind the $50 million war drama, said it has not polled ticket-buyers on their political affiliation, but studio executives believe that the results show that Republicans turned out in greater force.

“It feels like it was hard for people to buy a ticket if they were more liberal leaning,” said Rob Moore, Paramount’s vice-chairman. “It’s sad that this gets turned into a political debate as opposed to a conversation about who did the right thing and who was heroic.”

Benghazi has become so politicized that it can be easy to lose track of the the 2012 attack’s human toll. The assault on the compound by Islamic militants resulted in the deaths of four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, but along with national expressions of grief and anger, it touched off a series of congressional investigations into the Obama administration’s response.

Supporters of Hillary Clinton maintain those hearings are political theater designed to weaken the presidential candidate’s standing in the polls by arguing that the then Secretary of State ignored requests from U.S. diplomats in Libya for better security.

“13 Hours” tried to steer clear of the political minefields. It does not mention Clinton, for instance. Instead it focuses on the members of the security squad who were on the ground during the deadly siege, offering up the kinds of gun battles and explosions that have made Bay one of the foremost providers of cinematic mayhem.

Despite the efforts to remain above the fray, the film is raising the ire of certain Beltway figures. CIA spokesman Ryan Trapani, was quoted in a Washington Post story, labeling the film as a “distortion” and Clinton was dismissive as she told CNN this weekend that she was “too busy campaigning” to see the film.

The reaction on the other side of the political aisle has been dramatically different. Republicans have rallied to the film. Presidential hopeful Ted Cruz, made a point of name-checking the movie in a recent debate, and his opponent Donald Trump one upped him by offering free tickets to an Iowa showing of the picture.   A recent Washington D.C. screening brought a packed crowd that included Republican operatives and politicians such as GOP lawmakers Senator Tom Cotton and Representative Darrell Issa.

Moore said the studio did not offer to show the film to Clinton or President Obama before its premiere this week.

“We didn’t reach out to politicians to try to screen the movie,” said Moore. “We wanted the pre-opening discussion to focus on the movie itself.”

The film is a departure for Bay, who is best known for overseeing the “Transformers” and “Bad Boys” franchises. Though “American Sniper” became the highest-grossign domestic release of 2014, studios tend to steer clear of politically charged movies such as “13 Hours.” For one thing, they tend not to play as well internationally — a major drawback at a time when foreign ticket sales can comprise nearly 70% of a picture’s gross.

But this was a passion project for Bay and a reward for his role in guiding the “Transformers” films for Paramount. It’s no accident that the studio recently announced Bay will direct the fifth film in the Autobots series.

Reviews for the picture were middling, but those who saw the movie, liked it. It received an A CinemaScore. Unlike “American Sniper” or other military dramas such as “Lone Survivor,” “13 Hours” lacked a major star on the level of Bradley Cooper or Mark Wahlberg.

Analysts believe that the debate surrounding the film drove ticket sales. Polling suggests that its topicality was key to its appeal — the film’s subject matter was cited by 38 percent of ticket buyers as the reason they saw “13 Hours,” according to Rentrak’s post-track survey. That far outstrips any other motivation they cited.

“There’s no such thing as bad publicity,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media at Rentrak. “People are talking about this movie.”

Moore said he always expected the film would be given the cold shoulder in certain parts of the country.

Paramount’s decision to stage the premiere for “13 Hours” in the Texas stadium that houses the Dallas Cowboys as opposed to New York or Los Angeles demonstrates the studio knew where the picture would resonate.

“The challenge with this issue is it’s hard to focus on the heroism,” said Moore. “Instead it becomes a debate about what went wrong and who is responsible.”

Fairly or not, many of the people who pay money to see “13 Hours” will have deeply held convictions about who is to blame.

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  1. Kevin Tobey says:

    this movie is not about Hillary, or Obama… its about the men (and women) who were left to fend for themselves during a terrorist attach on a distant land. it never mentions Hillary or Obama…. its about the men and women who were left to fend for themselves… period. if you boycott this movie because your a democrat, then your the problem and not the solution

  2. Flor Q. says:

    My family and I watched the movie and we all liked it and recommend to all to watch it at least that’s what we can do to honor the fallen heroes. Please tell others to support it. At least to support the movie even though the govt was not there to help them that ended up losing their lives.

  3. Oliver_C says:

    If BoxOfficeMojo.com is any guide, 13 Hours will probably end up making as much as “liberal flop” The Hateful Eight, and both had similar production budgets. Does that, then, make the former film a flop as well, or do movies only flop when you disagree with their (or their director’s) ideology?

  4. Lou Ferrao says:

    I guess wanting to know the truth is not on the agenda for Democrat supporters. As an independent I went to see this movie for the truth. As a former US Army veteran I know the honor these men have. Now after seeing this movie there is no way in hell I will vote for Hillary or anyother member of the Obama administration. How can our government not send any assistance? What was the purpose of this? Why did the administration start lying about the video when clearly they knew (Drone flying over the annex compound for 13 hours) this was not the case. They continued with the lie right to the families face and one of Hillary’s email to her daughter shows she knew it was not the video but a terrorist attack.

    No American aircraft went to Bengazhi. Not even to bring back Ambassador Stevens body home. How sick is that?

    Too many questions and no answers. Couple that with Hillary’s email scandal which clearly shows she is not qualified to be President.

    She is too shady!

  5. Charles Schmitz says:

    I recently finished reading the book, 13 Hours: The Inside Story of What Really Happened in Benghazi. Suffice it to say — the book was riveting and compelling. More than anything, it was an indictment of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama. The book leaves you with a disgusted feeling. Disgust with the non-response to this horrible crises by the State Department and the Obama Administration, and disgust with the fact that so many people had to die in Benghazi, including Ambassador Chris Stevens and several very brave Americans, because no help was sent, no airplanes deployed, and no troops sent in to save them. Worse yet, the nearly 30 folks who worked for the CIA, the brave men and women who defended the Americans, and Ambassador Chris Stevens dead body, had to finally be evacuated by a Libyan cargo plane and by a Libya airline. If this leaves you all feeling nauseated and heartbroken, join the crowd!

    And now today, we went to see the movie based on the book entitled, 13 Hours:The Secret Soldiers Of Benghazi. Our disgust with our government rose to even higher levels. The movie is outstanding — you almost felt you were involved in the battle to save the Ambassador and the CIA and State Department outposts. It was so real in its impact that we found ourselves crying, feeling anger and outrage, being heartbroken, and being overwhelmed with the notion that Hillary Clinton is totally UNFIT to be President of the USA! She is a great danger to the USA!
    The truth is, you MUST see this movie! It depicts so completely the corruption of the Obama Administration and the ineptitude of Hillary Clinton. You will come away from this movie with much sadness and anger. But the truth is, watching this movie and reading the book will remind you (if you need any reminding) of what a Hillary Clinton Presidency would look like. Please go see it.

    The good news — you will feel great pride in the Americans who fought so bravely to save Ambassador Stevens, the CIA compound, and the State Department Annex. What brave men they were.

    • jsm1963 says:

      Did the book mention Clinton or the Obama administration by name? Did it mention the GOP cuts to State Department security that Clinton warned would put them at risk?

  6. Aggie95 says:

    Will be seeing it

  7. RTF says:

    Worth noting that The Birth of a Nation did well in the south, too.

  8. WhoCares says:

    You mean soldiers saw some combat and an ambassador stationed in a middle east hell hole was killed. Stop the presses let me get my tiny tissue and violin.

  9. David Jackson says:

    Hillary Clinton should be forced to watch this movie every night before she goes to bed, for the rest of her life

  10. Marsha Moore says:

    Pathetic democrats can’t face the truth!! the Obama administration has turned the world into a powder keg, and the democrats bury their heads in the sand. sick pathetic cowards that they are.

    • Oliver_C says:

      “The Obama administration has turned the world into a powder keg…”

      Yep, because under Bush the world was an oasis of peace and prosperity.

    • rick says:

      Get your head out of your ass and you’ll see the world is NOT as gloom and doom as you try so hard to believe.

  11. james says:

    Conservative’s dicks get hard when the word Benghazi is even mentioned. So, it’s no surprise they rally around a movie on the subject and, no matter if the movie doesn’t state that Hilary Clinton was at fault, they’re still going to use it for their own ends. As for candidates shilling for the movie, no surprise either. They know that the conservatives will respond with their typical flag-waving bullshit and support Bay’s jingoistic world view.

  12. Norman says:

    Blaming the movie’s box office flop on political bias is low hanging fruit, regardless of consumer patterns in the various areas.

    The type of moviegoer, for better or worse, that sees a Michael Bay film, or understands his limitations as a filmmaker, was never going to see this film, regardless of the qualifier on their voter registration card.

    You could just as easily blame his work on Pearl Harbor as you could on some fandom of Clinton or the political left, and I’m not convinced that those two rationales exist clearly in a binary.

  13. Its a shame this kind of movie was not made about Iraq. Perhaps Bush and Cheney would be jailbait by now with all the lies they told.

  14. Drz Nega says:

    who cares what happens, its double standards for everything..and truth hurts more that Obama is cleaning up BUSH huge mistake of getting involved IRAQ…and 3000 civilians in US soil died for nothing…a movie was made for that too..neither movies going win anything money wise…Episode 7 defeat both of this movies over a billion times….and people prefer seeing starwars still…and Chris Stevens choose to died of his country…

  15. Mark O'Neill says:

    Why make it political? I’ve seen the film. It’s really not that political. It shows a lack of leadership and responsibility by the current administration. But it does not discuss politics or slam democrats in general.

    It is very sad that the Obama administration left Chris Stevens out to die.

    • jsm1963 says:

      But otherwise not political at all.

      It’s also said that the GOP led congress wouldn’t give Clinton the money she needed for adequate security. It’s almost as if they set her up. Used the lives of those on the State Department as political pawns.

    • RTF says:

      But, there was no lack of leadership or responsibility. Clinton never actually saw the request for additional security. It was the fault of an agency that has been bloated with too many buffers since the Cold War.

  16. Mark Morrissey says:

    “…studios tend to steer clear of politically charged movies such as “13 Hours.” Didn’t Hollywood make about a dozen bad movies that nobody saw to show what a mistake Iraq was? I think there was one with Robert Redford, one with John Cusak, and one directed by the guy who did “Scanners” all those years ago.

    • who are you kidding says:

      Yep, and Moore’s lie-filled propaganda pic Fahrenheit 9/11 made well over $100M in the US alone. The Dem Committee Chairman applauded after watching and numerous Dems gave it a standing ovation at the premiere.

  17. kate says:

    Thank you Doke. Mark is a typical liberal…blames Bush for something the current administration should be responsible for. I saw the movie. It was well done. It stays completely out of the political issue. The guilt must be great for liberals and the Benghazi debacle.

  18. Mark says:

    39 embassy attacks under g.w. shrub. 87 Consulate members or staff killed. Oh, and he let terrorists attack America on 9/11, and got us into Iraq with lies, and raised taxes higher than any president in U.S. history.

    • John Th says:

      Nice try. But, please answer the following…

      Did any of those attacks last for 8 hours without any backup sent to help?
      Did any of those embassies beg for greater security and were denied by Bush admin.?
      Were any of those attacks blamed on a YouTube video by the Bush admin.?

      Case closed. Benghazi is in a league all it’s own when it comes to downright incompetence and dereliction of duty.

      • Drz Nega says:

        no thats what wrong with your comment..BUSH didn’t send anybody to save anybody…either lived or died by their belief…and they were depended on country security

  19. Dee says:

    What we expect from Michael Bay are movies that taste good, not movies with good taste. It’s a fictional joy ride, taken on that basis, it won’t matter to anyone in two weeks.

  20. Alex says:

    Liberals have never been big fans of war movies, it’s safe to say they’ll avoid this one. Mikey Moore made a fool out of himself insulting Chris Kyle from “American Sniper”, the libs will likely say little or nothing about this one. They won’t want to draw anymore attention to this film.

  21. c o says:

    Can’t wait for all the asinine comments on this one.

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