LOS ANGELES - Just in case anti-Bush documentary
"Fahrenheit 9/11" needed any more controversy to fuel its hot
box office, a new war of words broke out on Friday over whether
the U.S. Army is stonewalling efforts to book the film at
But the organization that orders films for the 160 base
theaters countered that it was the distributors -- Fellowship
Adventure Group, IFC Films and Lions Gate Films -- that had the
problem and noted they plan to stock base stores with the
film's DVDs when they are released.
The movie, made by Oscar-winning director Michael Moore,
has grossed over $113 million at domestic box offices and such
a blockbuster would be routinely, and quickly, ordered up by
But the movie presents a scathing view of President Bush's
drive to war in Iraq, and it paints an unflattering view of the
conduct of some U.S. military personnel. Although to be fair,
many of the men and women fighting in Iraq are depicted as
compassionate and caring.
Moore has made no secret of the fact he wants Bush ousted
from office, and the film is undoubtedly anti-war.
"We have made all requested materials available to them,
but unfortunately, a commitment to show the film has not been
made," a Lions Gate spokeswoman said.
A spokesman for Fellowship Adventure Group claimed the
military was stonewalling for obvious reasons.
Judd Anstey, public affairs specialist for the Army and Air
Force Exchange Service which books movies for military base
theaters, denied any suggestion the decision not to book the
film had anything to do with its content and was solely based
CONTENT OR COMMERCE?
The organization, called AAFES, is a non-appropriated
government group, meaning that it is almost exclusively funded
through its own ability to make money. The time between when
"Fahrenheit 9/11" would be played in base theaters and when it
would be sold on DVD was too short to allow it to make money,
"This was based on business standards," he told Reuters.
Anstey said it was only about a week ago that AAFES was
told "Fahrenheit 9/11" would be available to the bases by Aug.
By that time, AAFES had already booked base theaters with
movies through Sept. 3, and with a reported DVD release date of
Oct. 5, it simply didn't think enough base personnel would show
up to make the movie profitable.
"Historically, for films screened within that type of time
frame, the box office is marginal," he said.
Moreover, he said, its audience size was limited because it
has played in civilian theaters since June 23.
But sources within the distribution group said AAFES was
first contacted in mid-July, given an availability date of Aug.
16, and told 200 to 300 prints would be ready to go by then.
Sources at rival movie studios who asked to remain
anonymous said both sides may have their points. Typically the
military is fast to order up blockbuster movies that make over
Just as typically, independent film distributors have fewer
prints to ship around. With "Fahrenheit 9/11" playing so
strongly, it may be that only recently the prints became
available, the sources said.
The spokesman for Fellowship Adventure Group also noted
that the DVD release date has yet to be official and has only
been reported in the media.
Anstey said that without an official DVD release date,
AAFES had to base its decision on what had been reported.
© Copyright 2004 Reuters Ltd