The film showcasing President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama’s first date earned more than $3 million at the box office in its first weekend of release.
“Southside With You,” which transports the viewer to a 1989 Chicago outing between Obama and then Michelle Robinson after they meet at a law firm, premiered in 813 theaters this weekend, grossing $3.1 million, according to studio estimates.
The limited-release film finished 13th at the box office. The film was released by Roadside Attractions and Miramax.
The highest grossing film of the week was “Don’t Breathe,” a horror film that pulled in $26.1 million at 3,051 locations.It also premiered this weekend. It was followed by “Suicide Squad,” with $12.1 million, and “Kubo and the Two Strings,” with $7.9 million.
“Southside With You,” which stars Parker Sawyers as Barack Obama and Tika Sumpter as Michelle Robinson, debuted at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival in January. The movie was written and directed by Richard Tanne.
Currently, Obama’s approval ratings are at 51 percent, according to Gallup‘s weekly average for Aug. 15-21. The studio said the president’s improving approval ratings did not factor into the release plans for the film.
“It helps, but we weren’t banking on it,” Howard Cohen, Roadside Attractions’ co-president, said to Variety. “If it had been the reverse, it might have given us pause, but it’s not like we read the approval ratings and said, ‘okay, let’s go to 800 screens.’”
Films showcasing a personal story and released on the big screen are unusual while a president is still in office.
Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first president to show up as a significant character in non-documentary movies during his presidency. Most of those bits, however, were narrative devices in patriotic films such as “Yankee Doodle Dandy,” in which the fictional FDR was called upon to say noble things.
In 1955, Dwight Eisenhower (played by Harry Carey Jr.) was a prominent character in John Ford’s “The Long Gray Line,” a fictionalized history of West Point. Eight years later, John F. Kennedy (played by Cliff Robertson) was the main character in “PT-109,” about his heroics in the Navy. Since then, there have been a number of other portrayals of current U.S. presidents on the big screen, though most have taken the form of satire or worse, such as Oliver Stone’s piercing 2008 George W. Bush biopic, “W.”
David Cohen contributed to this report.