“13 Hours” — The Washington Post’s jaundiced take

Scott reports that “13 Hours,” Michael Bay’s film about the Benghazi attacks, attracted only a small crowd at the Grandview Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. Nationally, though, the movie seems to be doing well. It earned around $20 million during the holiday weekend.

That’s not quite as good as “Lone Survivor” ($25 million) and nowhere close to “American Sniper” ($107 million), both of which opened during the corresponding weekend. But it was good enough for fourth place among the films that opened this MLK weekend.

We should also remember that “Truth,” Hollywood’s ludicrously untrue depiction of Rathergate, earned a paltry $65,000 or so during its opening weekend (which did not correspond to a holiday). “Steve Jobs.” earned around $7 million.

A modest showing in St. Paul isn’t inconsistent with a solid national showing. According to Ann Hornaday, the Washington Post’s liberal film critic, the film is doing quite well in the South and portions of the Midwest, while struggling in more liberal climes. It would be interested to examine the correlation between the rate of military enlistments by region and viewership of “13 Hours.”

Hornaday blames Paramount Pictures, not geographic diversity, for the disparities in viewership:

Presumably to avoid being Zero Dark Thirtied, the parent studio of “13 Hours,” Paramount Pictures, declined to show the film in advance to screenings in Washington, which can garner valuable buzz for hot-button films.

While they’ve run from the obvious political implications of “13 Hours” in the District, they’ve enthusiastically embraced them elsewhere, scheduling the film’s debut just weeks before the first presidential primaries and showing it to a select group of conservative publishers and commentators. . . .

[W]hen you court a narrow market for your movies. . .the audiences you neglect don’t come.

By being “Zero Dark Thirtied,” Hornaday means “becoming mired in a passionate [political] debate,” in that case over the use of torture.

Unfortunately, Hornaday can’t resist miring “13 Hours” in such a debate. She writes:

[A]s Secretary of State John F. Kerry secured the release of American prisoners in Iran just hours after “13 Hours” opened, the movie’s simplistic, shooting-good-talking-bad moral scheme began to ring impressively false. Maybe one day, State Department envoy Brett McGurk, who led the team that negotiated the release, will get his own big-screen blockbuster, even if it doesn’t feature prominent biceps, heavy ordnance and a careening SUV with its wheels on fire.

Is Hornaday serious? First, how does the Iran-U.S. prisoner swap make “13 Hours” ring “impressively false.” In Benghazi, terrorists attacked two U.S. facilities. Does Hornaday believe that talking to terrorists marching on the CIA annex was a better option than defending it with guns?

Second, how well does Hornaday think a movie about turning over $100 billion or so and seven prisoners to the “death to America” Iranian government in exchange for five Americans will play at the box office? A studio silly enough to make such a film could show it all day and all night to Hornaday’s “journalists, policymakers” and other “influencers.” It would still have a tough time surpassing “Truth” at the box office.

Somehow we prefer watching “American Sniper” to “American Sucker,” and long may it continue.

Hornaday, by the way, gave “Truth” three stars out of a possible four. Her Post colleague, Michael O’Sullivan, gave “13 Hours” two-and-half stars, calling it “bombastic” and “unsubtle.”

If “13 Hours” bombs in Washington, let’s not blame Paramount Pictures.