2004-06-28 00:52:48 UTC
Dean Goodman, Reuters, June 27, 2004
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -Bush-bashing became the nation's favorite
spectator sport over the weekend as Michael Moore's red-hot
documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" earned more in its first three days of
release across North America than his previous record-breaking movie
did in its entire run.
According to studio estimates issued on Sunday, "Fahrenheit 9/11," in
which Moore takes aim at President Bush, and the war in Iraq, opened
at No. 1 after selling about $21.8 million worth of tickets in the
United States and Canada since June 25.
All told, the movie's total stands at $21.96 million, because it got a
head-start on Wednesday in two Manhattan theaters to help build more
media buzz before expanding to a relatively modest 868 theaters two
days later. (By contrast, most of the other movies in the top five
were playing in more than 2,500 theaters each.)
Moore's previous movie, "Bowling for Columbine," which nabbed the
Academy Award for best documentary last year, grossed about $21.5
million during its nine-month run, peaking at about 250 theaters,
according to Moore. That haul was a record for a documentary in
regular movie theaters.
"These are mind-blowing numbers," Moore said during a conference call,
"And the fact that all the predictions that the movie would only speak
to the choir and that it would only be those who don't like Bush
coming to the movie, I don't think have turned out to be true."
Indeed, "Fahrenheit 9/11" played strongly in big cities and small
towns, in Democrat and Republican states, said Tom Ortenberg, the
president of distribution at Lions Gate Films, one of the firms that
backed the movie.
According to exit surveys in about 15 cities, 91 percent of
respondents gave the film an "excellent" rating, while 93 percent said
they would "definitely recommend" the film --tallies that Ortenberg
said were the best he had ever seen. The core audience was aged
between 25 and 34, he added.
Lions Gate, a unit of Lions Gate Entertainment Corp, partnered on the
film's distribution with IFC Films, a unit of Cablevision Systems
Corp.'s Rainbow Media Holdings LLC, and Miramax co-chairmen Harvey and
Bob Weinstein. The Weinsteins bought the movie's rights with their own
money after Miramax parent Walt Disney Co. refused to let them release
it under the Miramax banner.
The Disney brouhaha, which broke in early May, weeks before
"Fahrenheit 9/11" went on to win the top prize at the Cannes Film
Festival, helped give the movie a huge public profile virtually
unprecedented for a $6 million documentary.
Moore and the Weinsteins, well-practiced masters of media spin, were
also helped in their efforts by grassroots groups from both sides of
the political fence that chimed in with their opinions. Moore thanked
his detractors for helping boost awareness and ticket sales.
While Moore has previously boasted that "Fahrenheit 9/11" would help
Bush lose his job in November, he backed down during the
teleconference, merely hoping that the film would inspire the large
non-voting bloc to be "an active participant in our democracy."
Similarly, Moore reversed himself on previously stated plans to
release the DVD version of the film in October. "No deal has been done
to do that," he said.
But one thing is certain. The Oscar race is now definitely underway
ahead of next year's Feb. 27 ceremony, with "Fahrenheit 9/11" joining
Mel Gibson's "The Passion of the Christ" as the highest-profile
contender. "We have big plans for the award season, absolutely,"
"I think he was just having a bad day."
--Senator Pat Leahy (D-Vt) after V.P.Dick Cheney told him "fuck yourself."
The Critics on 'Fahrenheit 9/11'
"...a high-spirited and unruly exercise in democratic self-expression"
--A.O. Scott, The New York Times
"Fahrenheit 9/11 Electrifies."
--Rex Reed, The New York Observer
"...a film that members of all political parties should see without fail."
--Roger Friedman, Faux News
"... Something of Whitman, something of Twain, something of Tom Paine."
"...'Fahrenheit 9/11' is a compelling, persuasive film, at odds with the White House effort to
present Bush as a strong leader. He comes across as a shallow, inarticulate man, simplistic in
speech and inauthentic in manner"