Not unimpressive

This speaks for itself.

Michael Moore’s anti-Bush “Fahrenheit 9/11” became the highest-grossing documentary of all time on its first weekend in release, taking in $21.8 million as it packed theaters across the country this weekend.

The movie, mocking President Bush and criticizing his decision to go to war in Iraq, was No. 1 at the box office, beating out the popular comedies “White Chicks” and “DodgeBall,” which were playing on almost triple the number of screens.

Theater owners in large cities and smaller towns reported sellout crowds over the weekend, with numerous theaters declaring house records.

The phenomenal opening represented a decisive victory for Mr. Moore and for the Miramax movie executives Harvey and Bob Weinstein, who released the film independently after it was rejected by Miramax’s corporate parent, the Walt Disney Company, as too political.

“We sold out in Fayetteville, home of Fort Bragg,” in North Carolina, Mr. Moore said on Sunday. “We sold out in Army-base towns. We set house records in some of these places. We set single-day records in a number of theaters. We got standing ovations in Greensboro, N.C.

“The biggest news to me this morning is this is a red-state movie,” he said, referring to the state whose residents voted for George W. Bush in the 2000 election. “Republican states are embracing the movie, and it’s sold out in Republican strongholds all over the country.”

Harvey Weinstein said: “It’s beyond anybody’s expectations. I’d have to say the sky’s the limit on this movie. Who knows what territory we’re in.”

Update: And here’s what’s in the Wapo:

Jim Welsh, 65, drove more than 120 miles from his home in Salisbury, Md., to see the movie. The editor of a film and literature magazine, Welsh said, “I’d like to see for myself Mr. Moore’s methods and message, unlike those right-wing people who will trash it without having a clue what it involves.”

Kitty Dana, 48, said she cried through two-thirds of it. “It was incredibly moving, not just satirical,” said Dana, who works for the American Friends Service Committee, an antiwar group.

“It says a little about American arrogance and power,” said Chandra Pant, 51, of Delhi, India, who was visiting the Danas.

Bush-Cheney campaign spokesman Scott Stanzel had no comment on the box office numbers, but suggested that those wanting another view visit www.GeorgeWBush.com and see a compilation of clips titled “Kerry Coalition of the Wild-Eyed.” In general, the campaign has said it did not want to take on Moore because it would lend him credibility.

Moore made no apologies for his partisanship. “Documentaries by their very nature are supposed to have a point of view,” he said during the conference call. He calls his documentary “an op-ed piece — it presents my opinion based on fact.” He said he believes the movie is playing strongly in Middle America, and that it has confounded theories that “it would only speak to the choir.”

“The documentary filmgoing audience is not that large. . . . I would imagine tens of thousands of people came this weekend who had never been to a documentary in a movie theater in their lives,” says Moore.

The distributors say they plan to add a couple of hundred theaters this coming weekend, and additional theaters the following weekend. By then the competition will include one of the summer’s anticipated blockbusters, “Spider-Man 2.”

“We look forward to joining with ‘Spider-Man’ to bringing truth and justice all across America,” Moore said.

The Discussion: 8 Comments

this movie will unseat Bush. No question about it.

June 28, 2004 @ 11:31 am | Comment

Wow. This looks like the most interesting election campaign I’ve seen ๐Ÿ™‚ We sure live in interesting times …

I don’t think the CCP would want that kind of movies in theaters over here. Though it’d be good anti-american propaganda, Michael Moore is not the kind of person they want to set as an example … I’ll have to wait for it to be on DVD.

June 28, 2004 @ 11:48 am | Comment

Jean, let’s hope and pray — and donate some $$ to the Kerry campaign.

Emile, you’re right . The last thing the CCP wants is mini-Moore’s popping up in China, parodying Hu and Wen and Jiang. Those guys don’t appear to have much of a sense of humor when the joke is on them.

June 28, 2004 @ 12:03 pm | Comment

I’m actually interested in going to see this now, not because I hate Bush, and yes I hate Bush, but because I want to see what all the comotion is about.

People are talking as if this is the most radical film ever produced.

June 28, 2004 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

I’m actually interested in going to see this now, not because I hate Bush, and yes I hate Bush, but because I want to see what all the comotion is about.

People are talking as if this is the most radical film ever produced.

June 28, 2004 @ 7:31 pm | Comment

Not so radical, and not perfect. But to call it an eye-opener is a vast understatement.

June 28, 2004 @ 7:52 pm | Comment

Does it just build on the things that the BBC and Channel four have already shown in Euope, or does it have something that is new, and too high brow for the tabliods?

I tend to favour European documenteries, particularly British ones, to Japanese or American programs because the documentary makers have usually have no comercial or political backing and instead of pushing everything as being a scandle they look at why somebody did something rather than what they did and how it will harm the country. If Moores film is more than a rumour raking plot to unseat Bush then I’m setting my VCR for the TV release, or heading down to blockbuster.

June 28, 2004 @ 10:32 pm | Comment

It’s r-rated, so it won’t be on TV anytime soon. Buy the DVD in Shenzhen, where it’s already for sale.

June 29, 2004 @ 10:00 am | Comment

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