I talked to four people who attended three separate screenings of “13 Hours” last week. All of them are involved in the conservative media (and all asked to talk on background so as not to alienate those who invited them to the screenings), and all told more or less the same story: the audiences were very small and almost uniformly either right-leaning or employed in the conservative media, and few were regular writers about film.
Two of the attendees also noted that the studio was tapping into the evangelical pipeline that has helped make religious features such as “Heaven is for Real,” “War Room,” and “God’s Not Dead” hits at the box office.
The ability to turn out conservative filmgoers is one of the reasons that January and February have become go-to months for medium-budget, patriotism-heavy action flicks. Last year, “American Sniper” rode a best-selling memoir and the direction of one of Hollywood’s few outspoken Republicans to a shockingly big $89 million opening weekend and a $350 million domestic haul. “Act of Valor”—a 2012 movie marketed as starring “active duty U.S. Navy SEALs”—also surprised, grossing twice its budget in its opening weekend and pulling in $70 million domestically in total. Peter Berg’s 2013 movie “Lone Survivor” might be the clearest comparison to “13 Hours”; that film grossed $37 million in its first weekend in wide release and $125 million total, domestically.