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Some theater chains refuse 'Fahrenheit'

CNN | July 10 2004

LOS ANGELES, California (Hollywood Reporter) -- Michael Moore's controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" will expand into 286 additional theaters Friday.

But if you're an interested moviegoer in cities served solely by Illinois-based GKC Theatres and Iowa-based Fridley Theatres, you'll have to drive to at least the next town to view Moore's critique of the Bush administration. Those companies have decided to not screen the film.

Both theater chains, which were not in domestic distributor Lions Gate's original 800-theater release plan, are protesting the content of Moore's film. According to Fridley Theatres' Web site, the theater chain has received a deluge of e-mails, phone calls and letters, some praising the action and others criticizing it.

But a statement from owner Robert Fridley said the company is not playing the film because it believes that "Fahrenheit" is propaganda.

"It has always been and will continue to be our policy to refuse to play what we feel are propaganda films, no matter the source. It was and is our feeling that 'Fahrenheit 9/11' falls into that category," he said.

In a statement to a local newspaper, GKC Theatres president Beth Karasotes confirmed that her chain, with 270 screens at 29 theaters, will not show Moore's film as long as the country is at war.

"We believe in Michael Moore's freedom to make this movie," Karasotes told the Michigan-based Mining Journal. "We trust that our customers will recognize and respect our own freedom to choose not to show it. During a time of war, the American troops in Iraq need and deserve our undivided support."

Calls to Karasotes were not returned.

"Fahrenheit 9/11" has already grossed more than $60 million since its release two weeks ago. Lions Gate's expansion into 2,011 theaters is expected to generate an additional $9 million this weekend. Lions Gate Films president of releasing Tom Ortenberg said that, in addition to the two chains in the Midwest, a few independent one- or two-screen theaters also have refused the film.

"This is a horrible precedent to be setting for someone to be putting their personal politics above the needs of their community," Ortenberg said. "It raises a lot of issues because in some cases these guys are the only ones in some of these small towns."

But Fridley, for one, does not want to be seen as someone imposing any form of censorship.

"We do not infer that Michael Moore has no right to make his film and have it distributed," Fridley said. "In fact, if he or anyone in our nation were ever denied that right, we would be on the front line defending his or her right to make and distribute his or her film. Mr. Moore's and every filmmaker's right to make and distribute a film is no different than ours ... Mr. Moore has the right to have his message just as we have the right to choose not to be his messenger."