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Are Conservative Documentary Films on the Rise?

A longtime conservative activist has landed where no other conservative making documentary films has landed before — the list of the top ten highest-grossing documentary films in history.
 
 
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If you were the generous sort, you might call Dinesh D'Souza, the Neil Armstrong of conservative filmmaking. D'Souza, a controversial longtime Christian conservative political activist and provocateur, has landed where no other conservative making documentary films has landed before; the list of the top ten highest-grossing documentary films in history.

Although D'Souza's thesis about President Obama was eviscerated by Bill Maher on HBO's Real Time on Friday, August 31, a recent Fox News.com headline, "Conservative documentary film 2016: Obama's America poised to surpass Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth," signified that his unabashedly anti-Obama film is having enormous box office success. (As of Labor Day, 2016 stood at #10, just two spots behind Gore's film.)

D'Souza, co-director, along with John Sullivan, of 2016: Obama's America, brashly told FOX411's Pop Tarts column: "We're really ramping it up to the next level, theaters are begging for the film because they know our per-screen average is the highest in the country right now. We are on-track to surpass Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth and who knows, we could even reach Michael's Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 box office numbers. That film had a major distributor and opened in 900 theaters, we opened in one. And we don't have a big Hollywood studio behind us."

Will the success of D'Souza's film be an indicator of what's coming in November?

The Michael Moore factor

Although conservative documentary filmmakers have been making movies for many years, it is only in recent times that they have been spreading their filmic seeds a lot more liberally.

The success of Michael Moore's documentaries inspired a spate of conservatives to make movies. At first, this resulted in a spate of anti-Moore docs; Canadian filmmakers Debbie Melnyk and Rick Caine made Manufacturing Dissent, a film investigating Moore, while Michael Wilson attempted to refute Moore's Bowling for Columbine with the subtly titled Michael Moore Hates America.

Despite D'Souza's optimistic comment, no conservative documentary has yet come close to touching the box office success of Moore's Fahrenheit 9/11 (released some 5 months before the 2004 election), which is still listed as the number one grossing documentary film in history, outpacing Justin Bieber: Never Say Never, March of the Penguins, Katy Perry: Part of Me, and Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth. In fact, according to boxofficemojo.com, three of Moore's films (Bowling for Columbine and Sicko are the other two) are listed in the top ten grossing documentaries of all time, and five are in the top twenty-five.

Newt Gingrich and his wife Callista, aka Gingrich Productions, have made a number of films including, Nine Days that Changed the World and A City Upon A Hill, which according to its web site, "explores the concept of American Exceptionalism from its origin to the present day." While none of the Gingrich films have gotten major theatrical play, Gingrich Productions distributes a fair number of DVD's via its web site and during personal appearances.

David Bossie's Citizens United has also been in the forefront of conservative filmmaking. One of CU's films, Hillary: The Movie, had less to do with box office numbers than with political impact, as it was that film that ultimately led to the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision.

At the Republican Party Convention, Citizens United premiered Occupy Unmasked, a film directed by Stephen K. Bannon – who last year made The Undefeated, a Sarah Palin vanity project -- and produced by Bossie. Occupy Unmasked, according to a FoxNews.com report, "takes cameras into the Occupy camps in New York, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Portland, Denver and Oakland, documenting instances of brutality and profanity that took place."