Just a quick check in before the start of my work day.
You know? It's not often that you have a big multimedia corporation admitting that they're quashing a film strictly because it "goes against our financial interests."
Miramax vs Disney (yeah, Disney really is pissing off its various business units and partners lately, isn't it? First ABC meddling. Then the Pixar break-up. And now Miramax meddling.)
It maybe shouldn't surprise anyone that the lightning rod for this kerfluffle of a massive corporate scale is none other than Michael Moore. Don't get me wrong, I loves me Moore. Roger and Me remains one of my favorite films of all time. I even liked his one attempt at a non-doc film, Canadian Bacon (C'mon! All the Canadian actors were American and all the American actors were Canadian! It rocked!). However, even I admit that Bowling for Columbine is over the top and there are days when he strikes me as more annoying fly than gadfly, but we also need people like him around, now more than ever.
This time the movie is about the Bush connections to the Saudi Royal family. Ummm, none of which is really news, actually, since, y'know it was common knowledge (at least I thought so) about the connection during the first Bush presidency.
No soap. Disney has refused to let Miramax distribute the film. Keep in mind, under terms of the Disney's ownership agreement, Disney only has the right to refuse distribution under certain circumstances, such as an NC-17 rating or an excessive budget. Disney is invoking the clause because Fahrenheit 911 goes against its own corporate interests.
I'm not sure what shocks me more, Disney's reasoning, or the fact that they're so blatantly admitting it. People should be pretty outraged, especially since I'm not all that sure Disney would be so "afraid" if the subject was Kerry or another Democrat.
Anyway, here's the NYT article from this morning.
Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush
May 5, 2004
By JIM RUTENBERG
WASHINGTON, 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
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
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,
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
"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
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.