“It feels like it was hard for people to buy a ticket if they were more liberal leaning. 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." -- Rob Moore, vice-chairman of Paramount Pictures
What Moore is lamenting is the relatively meager $16-million Friday-to-Sunday box office take for 13 Hours, the new Michael Bay action movie about the deadly 2012 attack on the U.S. outpost in Benghazi. Adjusted for inflation, it's the worst opening for any Bay film; even 2013's Pain and Gain cleared 20-mil and Bay's last Transformers sequel snagged over a hundred million on its first weekend.
What makes Moore's remark so galling is that he and the rest of the Paramount brass are the ones who specifically marketed 13 Hours toward conservatives. The project was greenlit because the studio thought it could count on a big audience of hyper-patriotic Fox News-watchers -- people for whom "Benghazi" will always be synonymous with "Fuck Obama and Clinton" -- to make it a massive hit. It was dropped in January because that's where American Sniper and Lone Survivor had made huge bank the previous two years.
For God's sake, the premiere for this movie was held not in Hollywood but at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, and featured performances by country music acts and interviews with the surviving members of the military contractor team featured in the movie. The trailers sold the movie as confirming every conservative myth about Benghazi, from the fecklessness of the government bureaucrats involved to the bullshit stand-down order that supposedly stopped American lives from being saved. (The ones who did "the right thing" and were "heroic" within the context of the movie were the real-American-men hired to protect the CIA annex nearby while, by implication, those who didn't were the worthless administrative pussies.)
The whole damn thing was one big pander to the right. And now Paramount has the titanum balls to claim that it was the audience that played politics with the film. It was that famous liberal bias which stopped Paramount's not-at-all-cynical plan to make 13 Hours a mammoth money-maker by appealing to NASCAR America. Yeah, that's it. 41% of the weekend take for this movie came from the South, signifying that the marketing for 13 Hours actually did work. The people it was targeted to went to see it, the problem is there simply aren't enough of them to bank a movie on.
With that in mind, by the way -- and after Lord knows how many fruitless investigations and congressional dog-and-pony shows -- can we finally all admit that nobody really gives a shit about Benghazi? That everybody accepts that it's a tragedy rather than a scandal? The fact that the story of Benghazi can be transformed into a shoot-em-up helmed by one of the most successful action directors in Hollywood and still nobody pays attention to it speaks volumes about how badly the Republicans overplayed their hand with the whole thing. They turned a tragic attack on American personnel into a political punchline. And a movie studio gets to pay the price for trying to push that punchline even further. Suck it, Paramount. If this thing underperforms, you've got no one to blame but yourself.