A romantic comedy about Barack Obama’s first date with his future wife opened over the weekend to unimpressive numbers.
Southside With You depicts young lawyer Obama’s outing with Michelle Robinson, a summer associate at his Chicago law firm, in 1989.
The film finished at No. 13 in the weekend box office, grossing a mere $3 million.
The low ranking came despite the promotional efforts of Southside With You‘s stars, Parker Sawyers and Tiki Sumpter, as well as executive producer John Legend.
After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, writer and director Richard Tanne said the Obamas were “excited” about the movie, but also “a little baffled by its existence.”
The movie, which had a limited release of 813 theaters, fared relatively well in some cities.
Southside With You had its post profitable showing at the Magic Johnson theater in Harlem, N.Y.
It also drew larger audiences in Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis, Los Angeles and Washington.
Howard Cohen, co-president of Roadside Attractions, said, “We’re very happy with the opening. … We had sellouts in many markets and the movie is playing to both an African-American audience and to arthouse audiences.”
Southside With You also received mostly positive reviews.
The film has a “freshness” rating of 92 percent on Rotten Tomatoes, and the site’s Critical Consensus states, “Southside With You looks back on a fateful real-life date with strong performances and engaging dialogue, adding up to a romance that makes for a pretty good date movie in its own right.”
Odie Henderson with RogerEbert.com said, “This down-to-earth approach works surprisingly well because Southside With You never loses sight of the primary tenet of a great romantic comedy: All you need is two people whom the audience wants to see get together — then you put them together.”
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone remarked, “Both Sawyers and Sumpter are terrific, world-class charmers who suggest the powerhouses they’re playing without undue mimickry.”
But The New York Times’ Manohla Dargis said Tanne “mistakes faithfulness for truthfulness. He’s obviously interested in the Obamas, but he’s so cautious and worshipful that there’s nothing here to discover, only characters to admire.”
“Mr. Obama hasn’t even left office, but the cinematic hagiography has begun,” Dargis concluded.
Despite its weak weekend at the box office, Southside With You still managed to outperform Hands of Stone, a Weinstein Co. film about professional boxer Roberto Duran, portrayed by Edgar Ramirez, and his trainer Ray Arcel, played by Robert DeNiro.
That movie opened in 810 venues and grossed $1.7 million.
The top-grossing movie of the weekend was the horror film Don’t Breathe, which opened in 3,051 theaters and grossed $26 million. (For more from the author of “Movie About Obamas’ First Date Flops at Box Office in Opening Weekend” please click HERE)