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May 5, 2004
Disney to Moore: Drop Dead

Michael Moore and Disney subsidiary Miramax found out that the Mouse meant what it said when it earlier told Miramax that it would not allow any Disney companies to distribute Moore's new film, Fahrenheit 911:

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."

Typically for Moore's team, his agent tried to blame the Bush administrations (George and Jeb) for Disney's decision, claiming that Disney chief Michael Eisner told him that the distribution deal would endanger tax breaks at the federal and state (Florida) level:

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," [Ari] 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."

Just the measured commentary we've come to expect from the group that regularly puts fiction into its "documentaries". The Disney explanation makes more sense:

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.

What's at stake is Harvey Weinstein's cut of the box office and his standing with the Democratic party, as Rutenberg alludes. Moore can now negotiate any distribution deal he likes, but Weinstein had set up a sweetheart deal that allowed he and Moore to lock up the North American profits between themselves, some of which would certainly find its way to party coffers.

This could have been avoided, of course, had Weinstein, Moore, and Emmanuel listened to Disney a year ago when they told them clearly that Disney would never distribute the film. Instead, they calculated that Disney would back down to avoid any negative publicity involved in rejecting Moore's work and allegations of political bias. However, it demonstrates the compartmentalization in which the Hollywood left lives if they thought that Disney's refusal to participate in Moore's work would somehow be more controversial than the opposite. Portraying the Disney corporation as a right-wing tool, given their support of many left-wing causes, will only underscore the radical nature of Hollywood and Moore's supporters.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at May 5, 2004 6:24 AM

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