Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Disney Blocks New Michael Moore Film from North American Theatres

Michael Moore is no stranger to controversy. Ever since he first stepped into the public eye, he has been trying to shake things up and he doesn't make many friends--his take-no-prisoners brand of Celluloid Activism has already made him a pariah in Republican circles, and I'm sure that there are at least a couple of CEO's whom would gladly put a price on his head--but this time, he may have poked his face in the wrong bee's nest.

Disney has decided to block distribution of his latest film, Fahrenheit 9/11, from appearing in North American theatres. The New York Times reported that Disney's reason for halting the release was because they were afraid that they might lose some of their tax incentives in Florida if they authorized a film that criticized the president. Although Disney executives have refuted this claim, they did express reservations about releasing a film that could "alienate many." The unnamed Disney executive who was quoted in the NY Times article also said, "It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle."

Disney has the power to halt the release of the film, legally anyhow, because they own Miramax, the production company responsible for it's creation. When Disney purchased Miramax in 1993, their agreement specified that Disney could block any movie release that had an adult rating or that went over budget. Although Fahrenheit 9/11 does not meet these criterion, it will be difficult for Miramax to change the outcome of the decision because of their parent company's enormous might. Disney has more money than some small nations.

In response to the Disney decision, Michael Moore said,

"(T)here's nothing they can do about it now because it's done, it's awesome, and if I have anything to say about it, you'll see it this summer -- because, after all, it is a free country."
Even if the film doesn't reach North American theatres, the overseas rights have already been sold to other companies so Europe may still get a chance to see what the fuss is about. In any case, this will surely create an enormous buzz which will guarantee that it becomes a box-office smash just like Bowling for Columbine, his previous film which earned Moore an oscar. Fahrenheit 9/11 will also be competing at the Cannes Film Festival and may garner the nod for Best Documentary or Best Film.

Personally, I feel that Disney is proving to be very Anti-American by refusing to let the truth be told. Why did they allow Miramax to produce the damned thing if they were going to waffle and try to censor it after the fact? It is an election year and they don't want to cause a ruckus but this will only hurt the Bush Administration because it will make Moore's movie into a "Cause Celebre" and everybody will rush to see it as soon as they get the chance. Also, they're giving it all sorts of free press... (hmm, I can see how this is a Win-Win situation for Disney: If the film is blocked, they gain an ally in BushCo.; if the film is released, they earn thirty-odd million dollars to throw in their Scrooge McDuck Vault. Those brilliant bastards!)

Then again, this sinister type of censorship could have prevented monstrosities like "Mighty Ducks II" or "The Haunted Mansion" from ever making it past the cutting room floor. The funny thing is, Disney didn't prevent Miramax from releasing "Kill Bill Vol. II", an intrinsically violent slash-fest made by the blood fetishist himself, Quentin Tarrantino. I guess that it didn't make any political stands, so it was palatable for the masses. Give me a break.

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