Box office politics


Geraldine Sealey
June 16, 2004 6:58PM (UTC)

Michael Moore is not the only game in town when it comes to political documentaries -- The Hunting of the President, based on the best-selling book by Salon's Joe Conason and Gene Lyons that exposed the decade-long right-wing campaign to destroy Bill Clinton, debuted last night in Little Rock, Ark., and will have its New York premiere tonight, after being delayed one week due to the death of Ronald Reagan. More than a thousand people showed up last night in Little Rock to watch the film and were joined by such Arkansan luminaries as Susan McDougal, who received a standing-O, Wes Clark and former Sen. David Pryor.

Watch the trailer and peruse the "Hunting" Web site here. Tonight's New York premiere is sold out -- War Room will be in attendance -- and we are being promised a "very special guest" appearance. We're guessing it's not Ken Starr. Stay tuned.

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As for that other highly-anticipated political documentary, the Boston Globe says Fahrenheit 9/11 may not live up to its hype once it hits theaters next week because the film's secrets are out and it may just serve to rile up the base rather than change any minds of swing voters out there in battleground states. That remains to be seen.

But Moore says he'll settle for energizing an anti-Bush base: ''The choir has been asleep. If this movie gets the choir singing again, that's a good thing."

Opponents of Fahrenheit 9/11 are also doing their part to hype the film before its release. A California group called Move America Forward, headed by former GOP Assemblyman Howard Kaloogian -- a leader of last year's recall of Gray Davis and the campaign to keep the Reagan miniseries off CBS -- is telling supporters to call theaters around the nation and demand they not run Moore's film. It's hard to know how successful the campaign will be -- theater owners learned from the Passion of the Christ that controversy equals bucks at the box office this year.

Liberal bloggers have launched a counter-attack on the campaign against Fahrenheit, getting readers to email the same theater contacts Kaloogian published on his Web site. At the blog Daily Kos, Kos said he was contacted by an industry reporter writing about the Kaloogian efforts. "Turns out the campaign is going really well -- for our side," he said.


Geraldine Sealey

Geraldine Sealey is senior news editor at Salon.com.

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