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Disney Blocks US Distribution of Michael Moore's New Film, Fahrenheit 911

The long New York Times URL below is cut in two to prevent skewing of the page. Cut and paste both into your web browser to see the original article.
 http://www.nytimes.com/2004/05/05/national/
05DISN.html?ei=5006&en=89982416bdce50c0&ex=1084334400&partner=ALTAVISTA1&pagewanted=print&position=

May 5, 2004

Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush

By JIM RUTENBERG

ASHINGTON, May 4 The Walt Disney Company is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush, executives at both Disney and Miramax said Tuesday.

The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis including the family of Osama bin Laden and criticizes Mr. Bush's actions before and after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Disney, which bought Miramax more than a decade ago, has a contractual agreement with the Miramax principals, Bob and Harvey Weinstein, allowing it to prevent the company from distributing films under certain circumstances, like an excessive budget or an NC-17 rating.

Executives at Miramax, who became principal investors in Mr. Moore's project last spring, do not believe that this is one of those cases, people involved in the production of the film said. If a compromise is not reached, these people said, the matter could go to mediation, though neither side is said to want to travel that route.

In a statement, Matthew Hiltzik, a spokesman for Miramax, said: "We're discussing the issue with Disney. We're looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably."

But Disney executives indicated that they would not budge from their position forbidding Miramax to be the distributor of the film in North America. Overseas rights have been sold to a number of companies, executives said.

"We advised both the agent and Miramax in May of 2003 that the film would not be distributed by Miramax," said Zenia Mucha, a company spokeswoman, referring to Mr. Moore's agent. "That decision stands."

Disney came under heavy criticism from conservatives last May after the disclosure that Miramax had agreed to finance the film when Icon Productions, Mel Gibson's company, backed out.

Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel.

A senior Disney executive elaborated that the company had the right to quash Miramax's distribution of films if it deemed their distribution to be against the interests of the company. The executive said Mr. Moore's film is deemed to be against Disney's interests not because of the company's business dealings with the government but because Disney caters to families of all political stripes and believes Mr. Moore's film, which does not have a release date, could alienate many.

"It's not in the interest of any major corporation to be dragged into a highly charged partisan political battle," this executive said.

Miramax is free to seek another distributor in North America, but such a deal would force it to share profits and be a blow to Harvey Weinstein, a big donor to Democrats.

Mr. Moore, who will present the film at the Cannes film festival this month, criticized Disney's decision in an interview on Tuesday, saying, "At some point the question has to be asked, `Should this be happening in a free and open society where the monied interests essentially call the shots regarding the information that the public is allowed to see?' "

Mr. Moore's films, like "Roger and Me" and "Bowling for Columbine," are often a political lightning rod, as Mr. Moore sets out to skewer what he says are the misguided priorities of conservatives and big business. They have also often performed well at the box office. His most recent movie, "Bowling for Columbine," took in about $22 million in North America for United Artists. His books, like "Stupid White Men," a jeremiad against the Bush administration that has sold more than a million copies, have also been lucrative.

Mr. Moore does not disagree that "Fahrenheit 911" is highly charged, but he took issue with the description of it as partisan. "If this is partisan in any way it is partisan on the side of the poor and working people in this country who provide fodder for this war machine," he said.

Mr. Moore said the film describes financial connections between the Bush family and its associates and prominent Saudi Arabian families that go back three decades. He said it closely explores the government's role in the evacuation of relatives of Mr. bin Laden from the United States immediately after the 2001 attacks. The film includes comments from American soldiers on the ground in Iraq expressing disillusionment with the war, he said.

Mr. Moore once planned to produce the film with Mr. Gibson's company, but "the project wasn't right for Icon," said Alan Nierob, an Icon spokesman, adding that the decision had nothing to do with politics.

Miramax stepped in immediately. The company had distributed Mr. Moore's 1997 film, "The Big One." In return for providing most of the new film's $6 million budget, Miramax was positioned to distribute it.

While Disney's objections were made clear early on, one executive said the Miramax leadership hoped it would be able to prevail upon Disney to sign off on distribution, which would ideally happen this summer, before the election and when political interest is high.
Moore is a Hack! 05.May.2004 07:49

Not a fan

He couldn't even think of an original title for the movie. He's a no-talent hack and always will be.

Great News 05.May.2004 08:27

f.u. nra

This will guarantee another hit movie for Moore.
A thanks to the uptight anal retentive neo-cons and all their robot followers.

God Bless Michael Moore! 05.May.2004 10:59

Lawrence J. Maushard

Whatever you think about Michael Moore, his new movie will do more to turn off voters to Shrub than most of what passes for news and information in this pitiful nation. Bet on it!

In Amerika, it ain't real unless it's on TV or in the movies. And obviously TV isn't anti-administration or even objective these days.

Conservative fascists will be picketing this movie, and worse. Just watch.

God bless Michael Moore!

God bless Michael Moore!

With any luck, Karl Rove and his murdering, war criminal, fascist, pilandering, hypocritical, anti-American GOP will rue the day they came to office.

I know most of the nation, not to mention the world, already has.

what are they smoking at disney 05.May.2004 12:25

they should fire their PR team

Real smart, have problems with a movie so try and get it banned. Result: lots of controversy to push people to see the movie.

"The film, "Fahrenheit 911," links Mr. Bush and prominent Saudis including the family of Osama bin Laden"

Oooh, shocking. It's almost like everyone is blind to the fact that Osama's brother Salem was Bush's first business partner in Arbusto Energy. This is common knowledge and accepted fact. The Bush spin team better get back to painting Osama as the black sheep (despite Salem and Osama reportedly being very close). Oh, and what's that Salem died in a plane crash after takeoff in Texas... well, let's not talk about that...

Michael Moore's Response 05.May.2004 14:01

Andy Seaton

Disney Has Blocked the Distribution of My New Film... by Michael Moore

May 5, 2004

Friends,

I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the
public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I
often seem to encounter.

Yesterday I was told that Disney, the studio that owns Miramax, has
officially decided to prohibit our producer, Miramax, from distributing my
new film, "Fahrenheit 911." The reason? According to today's (May 5) New
York Times, it might "endanger" millions of dollars of tax breaks Disney
receives from the state of Florida because the film will "anger" the
Governor of Florida, Jeb Bush. The story is on page one of the Times and
you can read it here (Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That
Criticizes Bush).

The whole story behind this (and other attempts) to kill our movie will
be told in more detail as the days and weeks go on. For nearly a year,
this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this
country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge (well,
OK, sorry -- it WILL upset them...big time. Did I mention it's a comedy?).
All I can say is, thank God for Harvey Weinstein and Miramax who have
stood by me during the entire production of this movie.

There is much more to tell, but right now I am in the lab working on the
print to take to the Cannes Film Festival next week (we have been chosen
as one of the 18 films in competition). I will tell you this: Some people
may be afraid of this movie because of what it will show. But there'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.

Yours,

Michael Moore
 mmflint@aol.com
www.michaelmoore.com

Moore - what's he really doing? 05.May.2004 14:26

former Moore fan

This film will get picked up by another company to make Moore - once again - look like he's a "progressive hero." He'll get twice as much media coverage & people to see the film which is a complete and total fraud.

Why is it a fraud? Because rather than ask the hard questions which are the real smoking guns around 9/11 - the bizarre physical evidence of the WTC collapses, the unanswered questions around the Pentagon attack - he shifts the underlying blame to the Big Bad Saudis and Bush's connections to them.

The truth is, the Bush Admin ENGINEERED 9/11, not let it happen. And Moore won't touch that. As long as he can get the Patiots angry at Bush via their nationalism and racism against the Saudis, he'll rake in the cash and war monger Kerry can become president.

The real truths of 9/11 are buried in the Dean-supporting-Liberals realization that, 'The Saudis Did It!'

Is bloviator Michael Moore making up stuff again? 05.May.2004 16:17

(can be anonymous or made up)

Sure looks like it.

Just days from the opening of the Cannes Film Festival he's basking in a wave of publicity that the Walt Disney Company is blocking subsidiary Miramax from distributing his new documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" on political grounds.

Publicity-hound Moore's allegations about Disney ring false. The very same Disney Company -- through its Hyperion division-- just published Pacifica Radio host Amy Goodman's new book "The Exception to the Rulers" - a volume brimming with just as much lefty fringe politics and anti-Bush theorizing as contained in Moore's films. Indeed, Goodman's book is a blunder-buss assualt on corporate media conglomerates-- like Disney!

The Mouse House seems sophsiticated enough to put up with and even finance the slapshots by Goodman and Moore if a profit is to be made. Duh!

Dissecting the current dust-up, it seems clear that Disney never intended to distribute Moore's film. Maybe the Mousketeers are cowards, but at least they are consistent. And Moore is whining now only to hype the pre-Cannes buzz. Sources report that Miramax never planned to release the Moore film, that it was always slated to come out through Lions Gate, as did the earlier Dogma.

Below find an exclusive full text copy of the article by Andrew Gumbel which will appear in Thursday's London-based daily The Independent which quotes inside sources saying there is nothing new in Disney's red light, that Moore knew it was a no-go from the outset. After you've read Andrew's piece take a look at this L.A. Weekly column I wrote in March describing Moore as the Ann Coulter of the left.

By Andrew Gumbel

Los Angeles

Michael Moore, the establishment-bashing comedian and film-maker, accused the Walt Disney Company of political censorship yesterday because the company is refusing to distribute his latest documentary lambasting the Bush administration's handling of national security since 11 September.

Controversy over the film, entitled Fahrenheit 911, erupted on the front page of the New York Times and elsewhere just days before Mr Moore is due to take the film to the Cannes Film Festival for its world premiere.

In an open letter to supporters, Mr Moore accused Disney of trying to kill the film, which is being produced by the Disney subsidiary Miramax, because the company was worried about its business interests in Florida and did not want to offend Governor Jeb Bush, the president's brother.

"I would have hoped by now that I would be able to put my work out to the public without having to experience the profound censorship obstacles I often seem to encounter," he wrote. "For nearly a year, this struggle has been a lesson in just how difficult it is in this country to create a piece of art that might upset those in charge."

Disney officials appeared to be caught off guard by this onslaught and denied that the company's decision was motivated by political interests in Florida. They also pointed out they had made it clear a year ago that they wanted no involvement with Fahrenheit 911, which was picked up by Miramax against the wishes of its corporate parent. [My emphasis -ed.]

Both the New York Times and Variety, the entertainment industry trade paper of record, suggested the flap over Mr Moore's film could drive a further wedge between Michael Eisner, the Disney chairman, and the Weinstein brothers who run Miramax. The Weinsteins and Mr Eisner have been at loggerheads for some time, and speculation is rife in Hollywood that Miramax may prefer to find a new corporate sponsor when its contract with Disney comes up for renewal later this year.

In other quarters, the fortuitous timing of the controversy caused some people to wonder whether Mr Moore is really the victim of an attempted corporate muzzling, or whether he is deliberately creating a controversy where little or none exists to generate publicity and trigger a bidding war for the US distribution rights to the film, which have yet to be settled. "This seems almost too good to be true. I smell a rat," said one well-placed Hollywood source with strong connections to both Disney and Miramax.

Miramax spokesman Matthew Hiltzik remained tight-lipped, saying only: "We're discussing the issue with Disney. We're looking at all of our options and look forward to resolving this amicably."

Whatever the true story, the grizzled documentary-maker has once again put himself front and centre of a political row likely to inflame partisan passions on all sides. In 2001, he fought with his publishers, Harper Collins, over the publication of his anti-Bush book Stupid White Men, which Harper Collins felt was politically insensitive in the immediate wake of 11 September. The book was delayed but eventually released in its original form, becoming an overnight bestseller.

Last year, Mr Moore cried censorship again after his unabashedly political speech at the Oscars - he called Mr Bush a "fictitious" president who had just started the Iraq invasion for "fictitious reasons" -- was greeted with jeers and boos. His film about gun violence, Bowling for Columbine, had just picked up the Academy Award for Best Documentary and went on to gross $22 million in North America alone, from an original budget of about $3 million.

Fahrenheit 911 was conceived as a provocative project from the outset. It promises to blow the cover on the cosy connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family and show how the White House has only exposed Americans to greater danger, instead of protecting them, since the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon two and a half years ago.

Mel Gibson's production company, Icon, was originally involved but dropped out this time last year for unknown reasons. (Rumours of political pressure abound in the Moore camp, although Mr Gibson is conservative enough to have political misgivings of his own.)

Miramax then decided to pick up the $6 million production cost on its own. Despite the near-certainty of making a profit on the venture, this was done over the express opposition of Mr Eisner. "Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, was quoted saying in the New York Times. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation [in Florida] and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Whether or not Florida was a factor, Disney certainly came under pressure from other quarters. Various conservative organisations threatened to boycott Disney, blasting the company, as one right-wing Internet activist put it, "for involving itself with this vile director and his offensive abuse of a national tragedy that is considered sacred to most Americans".

At the same time, Miramax was bombarded with messages from the other side of the political fence praising the company for its support of Mr Moore.

Miramax would clearly like Disney to distribute the film in the United States, because it would avoid the need to share profits with another company. Miramax appears to have held out some hope that it could bring Mr Eisner around once the film was completed. There is no indication, however, that it was counting on this, or that Mr Eisner has somehow reneged on an earlier promise.

"The only thing that's new here is in Disney's reaffirmation of their previously stated position," one well-placed source said on condition of anonymity. "Miramax never said it was distributing the film, even if people assumed it would find a way." [My emphasis- ed.]

The source also denied that Fahrenheit 911 was causing any significant personal friction between Mr Eisner and Mr Weinstein, pointing out that they could hardly be getting along worse as it is: "There's plenty of other issues to have catfights over."

Mr Moore was not immediately available to answer the charge that he was creating controversy for promotional purposes. He is still at work finalising the print to be shown at Cannes. -- + --


See also 05.May.2004 16:37

repost


Should read . . . 05.May.2004 16:42

repost

"Fahrenheit 911 was conceived as a provocative project from the outset. It promises to blow the cover on the cosy connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family and show how the White House has only exposed Americans to greater danger, instead of protecting them, since the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon two and a half years ago."

This should read -

"Fahrenheit 911 was conceived as a limited hang-out project from the outset, designed to install the latest Corporate-owned billionaire into the Imperialist Throne - John Kerry. It promises to blow the cover on the cosy connections between the Bush family and the Saudi royal family (BFD) and NOT show how the White House has exposed Americans to great danger (as well as mass murdered them) by ENGINEERING 911, instead of just doing what Moore will claim - letting it happen, since the government planned attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon two and a half years ago which still have no Arab passengers on the manifesto, no evidence even showing there *were* any hijackers aboard except from suspicious cell phone calls which have no records to back up that they even happened, and tens of unexplained questions surrounding the bogus official story for the collapses of the towers by FEMA."

looking for disney contact information (email address preferred) 05.May.2004 18:05

john

Hey all, I am trying to find an email address for walt disney, but have come up blank so far.
Anybody out there a better web searcher than myself...
Let me know I want to let them know how I feel about their decision and how this will hurt their bottom line.
I will be boycotting all disney products/movies/theme parks etc. and I would like them to know.

maybe Moore 05.May.2004 18:14

cw

Maybe Moore is afraid to come out and say "The Bush administration not only knew of, but orchestrated the attacks on 9-11" because that would put him in PHYSICAL danger. Hell, I have no status, and I'M afraid to say it aloud even though I do believe it to be true. Give Moore some credit, he's courageous just for saying and doing what he has. Don't criticize public figures for not saying EVERY SINGLE THING...human beings have an innate sense of "caution" which is spawned by fear. Don't knock someone for being scared....ever.

what's he supposed to do 05.May.2004 20:00

hang 'em for you too?

it's not even michael moore's job to have to kick in the door in the first place. if that's all he wants to attempt, rather than storming the place on top of it, that's his business and i am grateful. even pulling his punches they're trying to silence this. you want him to go right for the throat on having engineered 9/11, you want him to try and prosecute the bush adminstration for you too? personally i wish the 9/11 investigative commission would do that, because they were given much more authority to do so than michael moore. you want to criticize mckinney for the same thing, or is a damn shame she got sh*t on because we need more like her? idealism, ya, sure, but i have no idea what the point is in thrashing an ally on the grounds they aren't superman personally.

9-11 Inquiry Chair Tied to Osama's Brother In Law 05.May.2004 20:49

bin Laden ties

9-11 Foreknowledge linked reference articles
 http://globalresearch.ca/articles/CRG204A.html

Where was Osama bin Laden on 9/11?
 http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO311A.html

the current occupant of the White House is the son of a former CIA director who met with bin Laden's brother on 9-11  http://www.propagandamatrix.com/041203metwithbinladen.html  http://observer.guardian.co.uk/magazine/story/0,11913,738196,00.html, and one of his former Saudi Arabian oil companies was Arbusto Energy: shares partly owned by the bin Laden family.

the Bush family has close ties with the bin Ladens  http://tvnewslies.org/html/bin_laden_ties.html  http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/MAD202B.html, as does the current 9-11 investigative commission chairman Thomas Kean.
 http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/stories/HL0212/S00150.htm
 http://www.globalresearch.ca/articles/CHO212A.html

9-11 Inquiry Chair Tied to Osama's Brother In Law
9-11 Inquiry Chair Tied to Osama's Brother In Law

random thoughts to some of the above 05.May.2004 21:58

jayson

1. michael moore is a hack? personally, i don't think so, but just for the sake of shits and giggles, aren't about 92 percent of hollywood filmmakers? gimme a freaking break! at least moore is out there doing something original (the exact opposite of a hack) rather than wasting millions of dollars making shitty remakes of shitty movies and television shows from the last 70 years. c'mon!

2. moore fails to make the movie you want him to make, i.e., proving that bush not only knew about 911, but made it happen? personally i think there is a strong case that bush's people DID know about 911 before it occurred. if you want to make this movie, go to film school, get some investors, make the movie you want to make, find a distributor (that won't censor your film weeks before it is scheduled to be released), and shut the f up. (btw, you haven't even seen the film! how do you know he doesn't totally do what you claim he doesn't do?)

3. moore is generating his OWN publicity by censoring his OWN movie? that's rich. only the geniuses at disney could originate the idea to ban their own project to protect their corporate cronies and the 'smart bush', jeb.

4. disney has a vested interest in the profitability of terror and the demonization of arabs and muslims, as evidenced by their extensive filmography. i mean, jebus, the disney company even has a brand new ride called "the tower of terror".

well, technically... 06.May.2004 00:19

jayson

tv was only brought to us from on high about 50 (not 70) years ago. god there has been some real garbage and propaganda spewed out of the idiot box since then.