Updated Wednesday, 1:05 p.m. EDT:
A spokeswoman for Google sent the following statement:
“Our systems have unfortunately confused the title of the movie ‘America,’ because it’s a common term and appears in many movie titles. We’ve updated the Knowledge Graph, our database that stores this type of information, but it will take some time to display showtimes and other details for this movie. We're always working on improving our systems, and we appreciate the feedback.”
Lesson to all 21st-century filmmakers: Pick an original title.
Dinesh D’Souza, the conservative rabble-rouser who unsuccessfully tried to influence the 2012 presidential election with an anti-Obama documentary, has a new movie out called “America.” But he’s concerned that Google Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) is not giving the title the search placement it deserves.
The film, released theatrically on July 4, brought in about $4 million on 1,105 screens over the holiday weekend, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s not exactly a flop for a specialty title, but it’s far below the $6.5 million earned by D’Souza’s previous film, “2016: Obama’s America,” which went on to become one of the highest-grossing documentaries of all time. Since the new film opened, fans of the filmmaker have been grumbling on social media that they are having trouble finding screening times and locations via conventional Google searches. “I did simple search on web, could not find anything about where the movie is playing,” one person wrote on the film’s Facebook page.
D’Souza himself tweeted about the issue on Monday, and now it looks as though the filmmakers are demanding that Google fix the problem. According to the Hollywood Reporter, lawyers for AmericaFilm LLC sent a letter Monday to the search giant’s chief legal officer, David Drummond, complaining that Google has been “misdirecting many users who mistakenly believed the film was not playing in theaters.”
A spokesperson for Google did not return a request for comment.
Currently, a Google search for “America the Movie” places the website for D’Souza’s film as the first search result, but the results themselves are eclipsed by a large black bar containing a strip of superhero movies, including “Captain America: The Winter Soldier,” “The Avengers,” and “Iron Man 2.”
Some conservatives are calling it a “left-wing conspiracy,” but the reality is probably far less interesting. D’Souza’s previous film already contained the word “America,” and it’s possible that Google’s algorithm is simply confusing the two projects. It doesn’t help that the title is already decidedly generic. In addition to being synonymous with third most populated country on Earth, “America” is also the name of a 1970s rock band, a best-selling book by Jon Stewart and the former star of ABC’s hit comedy “Ugly Betty.”
Dinesh D’Souza’s “America,” subtitled “Imagine the World Without Her,” is a documentary that examines what the world would be like if the United States didn’t exist. The movie has been savaged by many critics, but conservative media outlets like Breitbart.com have been quick to point out that it earned high marks with moviegoers on CinemaScore, a box-office research firm.
At best, D’Souza’s search placement woes are a cautionary tale about choosing a distinct, searchable title in the age of Google. Alternative suggestion: “Propaganda the Sequel”?