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2nd Update: Now ‘Running With Arnold’ Docu Producer Responds to Alec Baldwin

By | Tuesday October 31, 2006 @ 6:15pm PST

Mike Gabrawy, the producer of Running With Arnold, the documentary about Schwarzenegger that has yet to find a distributor, alec_baldwin.jpgemails me how “it’s been a rough week for us” and responds to Alec Baldwin’s weekend explanation of his decision to run away from the film. ”I knew we’d get resistance to a film about the most prominent Republican in California. We’re all just a bit shocked that it’s coming from a supporter of the film and arguably the most outspoken Democrat. The [Third Reich] images that Mr. Baldwin mentioned were used to make points about Waldheim and Arnold’s father. Alec’s legal action has caused delays in our distribution strategy including our turning down the Hamptons Film Festival to premiere the film. We are currently scrambling to rectify the situation. The film is complete with Mr. Baldwin’s narration and will remain as such. 062705schwarzeneggerarnold.jpgWe tried several times to screen the film for Mr. Baldwin who, for the record, didn’t see the rough cut of the film until weeks after he recorded. He was offered to record the narration to picture and he refused. We also provided him with the script four weeks in advance of our recording which was delayed a month to accommodate Mr. Baldwin’s television schedule. What’s also surprising about Mr. Baldwin’s about-face is … Read More »

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UPDATE: Alec Baldwin Explains Why He’s Running From Documentary On Arnold

By | Sunday October 29, 2006 @ 6:39pm PST

062705schwarzeneggerarnold.jpgalec_baldwin.jpgIn response to my posting on Friday Why Is Alec Running From Arnold?, Alec Baldwin today has explained in a HuffPo blog. One minute he’s narrating the doc Running With Arnold; the next minute he wants out. ”I read the script and agreed to do the narration. I went to a studio here in NY and recorded the text to picture, which I had not seen before. The film’s producers had offered to screen the film for me, but I did not have time to see it. I based my decision on the script I read and went ahead. When I recorded the tracks, I was somewhat dismayed by some of the images I saw… The filmmakers hammer Schwarzenegger over his private behavior and his record as governor. But Schwarzenegger deserves to be treated fairly and the film’s images of Nazi rallies were over the line. I asked that my voice and name be removed from the film and I returned the fee I was paid, which was earmarked to be donated to charity, and I had an attorney issue a cease and desist order against the filmmakers so that they would comply with my demands. The filmmakers have thus far refused to accommodate my requests … Read More »

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Dec. 8: Leo vs George, Cammy & Mel Now

By | Sunday October 29, 2006 @ 12:08pm PST

blooddiamondteaser1.jpgHow interesting that Warner Bros. has just moved up the release of Leo DiCaprio’s Blood Diamond from December 15th to December 8th. Usually, these dates are carefully calculated based on what else is opening, so making a last-minute change like this is unusual. Especially when director Ed Zwick, producer Paula Weinstein and others are huddled in London trying to put the finishing touches like music on the film. The studio, which has started showing it around, claims it made the move “in response to strong reactions from early screening audiences” and “building positive buzz.” Actually, I think it’s a risky move for box office but a smart play for Oscar chatter. One thing is for sure: it’ll have a lot more rivalry on its new opening day. On the 15th, Blood Diamond‘s main competition was only The Pursuit of Happyness, starring Will Smith in an Oscar-touted dramatic turn (Sony’s gonna be thrillled their pic now has that date almost to itself). Small movies like Venus and Painted Veil also were opening. Now, on the 8th, Blood Diamond goes up against some big guns: Mel Gibson’s Apocalypto, and George Clooney’s The Good German from Steve Soderbergh (in limited run), and Cameron Diaz’s The Holiday from Nancy Meyers, as well as smaller pic Breaking and Entering. One box office guru explained: “I think it was praise of Pursuit of Happyness 12/15 . Trouble is, The Holiday on 12/8 is good, too. They think they can beat ApocalyptoRead More »

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UPDATED BOX OFFICE: Oct 27-29

By | Sunday October 29, 2006 @ 8:19am PST

‘Saw III’ Cuts Thru Competition For #1; ‘Departed’ Up To #2 and ‘Prestige’ #3; ‘Marie Antoinette’ Dies; Brad Pitt’s ‘Babel’ Best $$$ Per Screen

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Letterman Bests FNC Blowhard O’Reilly

By | Saturday October 28, 2006 @ 11:30am PDT

I couldn’t believe what I was watching: there was Dave Letterman bitchslapping Fox News Channel blowhard Bill O’Reilly on The Late Show Friday night. It did my liberal soul proud. Full video here. But, then, I’ve written before about Letterman’s fearlessness when it comes to politics. In Dave The Brave (April 2004), I praised the TV host for having ”the brass balls to go where the cowardly White House news corps and corporate suck-up Leno fear to tread: presenting Dubya in all his dumb-ass glory.” Dave’s performance was in sharp contrast to that of Jay Leno, who softballed recent guests Arnold Schwarzenegger and Ann Coulter. (And Leno still won’t give equal time to Arnold’s Democratic gubernatorial opponent Phil Angelides, which stinks.) Letterman’s audience cheered when Dave called Bill “a bonehead” and won round after round. O’Reilly wasn’t able to level even one decent comeback, instead continually turning to the crowd to claim Dave was “acting” and “we’re really friends and in a bowling league together.” (Bill repeated that over and over — even though it didn’t get one laugh.) Actually this was Round 2 of Dave vs Bill (first round this year took place in January). The Fox talker started off the segment by entering with a sword and shield, as if he were ready for a fight. Letterman looked at O’Reilly’s childish show-and-tell items disdainfully, cutting him down with: “That’s cute. You came out with toys.” Here’s a rough account of what went down from … Read More »

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‘Saw III’ Cuts Thru Competition For #1; ‘Departed’ Up To #2 and ‘Prestige’ #3; Brad Pitt’s ‘Babel’ Best $$$ Per Screen

By | Saturday October 28, 2006 @ 7:11am PDT

BradPitt.jpgSUNDAY AM: It turned out to be a big $100+ million weekend at the movies, up 10% over last year. Brad Pitt’s opener, Oscar contender Babel, had the best per screen average ($21,037 on Saturday, which sounds like people were sitting on laps!). But I hate when this happens: yet another horror movie made No. 1 at the box office this weekend as the studios knew it would (which is why it had no big rivals). I’m told that Lionsgate’s Saw III cut through the competition by opening huge with $14 million Friday and $11.3 million Saturday (down 19% from the previous night) from 3,167 theaters for what was a $33.4 weekend. That massive debut was better than Saw II (which earned $12.1 mil its first day out for a $31.7 mil weekend). Disney’s holdover from last week The Prestige, dropped from #2 Friday ($2.9 mil, -43% from last) to #3 after Saturday ($4.1 mil) for what was a $9.4 mil weekend and a new cume of $28.6 mil. Instead, 2nd best went to Warner Bros. holdover The Departed, stretching its legs for its fourth weekend and increasing its Best Picture/Best Director Oscar chances (because Academy voters always take note of how popular possible contenders are with the public). SawIII.jpgDown only 33%, the Marty Scorsese-directed drama starring Jack Nicholson /Leo DiCaprio /Matt Damon /Mark Wahlberg, raked … Read More »

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Is Alec Running From Arnold?

By | Friday October 27, 2006 @ 1:05pm PDT

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UPDATE: Alec Baldwin Explains Why He’s Running From Arnold Documentary.

I’m told that Alec Baldwin is suddenly trying to run from his involvement with the documentary Running With Arnold. And those associated with the movie (a reportorial look at Schwarzenegger’s jump from actor to California governor) don’t know why cuz he’s not explaining. Baldwin was the big-name actor who replaced Richard Belzer as narrator. Hardly anyone has actually seen the near-finished film with Baldwin (though a really rough much earlier cut was shown to a few dozen people), yet The Governator’s supporters claim it’s a slam pic, while the filmmakers themselves claim it’s not. From the info I’ve gathered, it’s a critical look at how the heck this guy got to where he is today. Interesting that the producers didn’t get it out into theaters before the November 7th election. No matter its politics, sources tell me Baldwin did a great job narrating the movie. Besides, Baldwin is a progressive Democrat, right? Or is he suddenly being influenced by all those Hollywood Democrats turncoating to support Arnold? Or is he worried about the impact on his current gig as a star of the NBC sitcom 30 Rock? (The latter … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Russell Crowe’s ‘Good Year’ Tracking Well Behind Will Ferrell’s ‘Stranger Than Fiction’ for Nov. 10

By | Friday October 27, 2006 @ 10:44am PDT

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They’re both very strange movies competing head-on the weekend of November 10th. But when it comes to early tracking, I’m told that Fox’s A Good Year starring Russell Crowe (who’s been off the screen for a while) isn’t firing. But Mandate/Sony’s Stranger Than Fiction, starring Will Ferrell (hot off Talladega Nights), is smokin’. (As one of my esteemed colleagues just emailed me when he read this post: “Hide all the telephones and tell all the hotel workers to strap on helmets.”) It’s too weird: here’s Russell, the great dramatic thesp, in what’s supposed to be a light-hearted romance, and Will, the great dumb guy actor, doing a dramedy. Don’t get me wrong; neither pic looks to be huge. That’s because both actors go against type, plus they’ll have a lotta competition coming from the screen expansions of holdovers Borat and Santa Clause 3. Oscar-platforming Babel also goes wider that week. So that weekend, it looks like a close race with all the pics in the mid-to-high teens with Stranger Than Fiction topping out with at least $15 million and maybe as much as $18 mil.

Of course, this weekend is all Lionsgate’s Saw III, in 3,167 theaters. As for the week of November 3rd, read my previous: UPDATED: Fox Trimming ‘Borat’ Screens and … Read More »

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Actor Michael J. Fox vs Rush Limbaugh; Could It Be About Nixon And Reagan?

By | Thursday October 26, 2006 @ 11:24pm PDT

I don’t see how Republicans, through their radio pit bull Rush Limbaugh, thought they could win with the electorate by impugning the integrity of one of the most beloved TV and movie actors, Michael J. Fox, now afflicted from Parkinson’s Disease. Have they forgotten that this little guy played a rabid right-winger on his megahit TV series, Family Ties? Of course, by now, everyone knows that Fox appeared in a political ad for Democrat candidate Claire McCaskill in her tight race for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat because allowing stem cell research is an issue close to the ailing actor’s heart. But then Limbaugh questioned whether Fox was truly shaking or just acting in the 30-second TV spot. UPDATE: *Michael J. Fox responded today on CBS: “The notion that you could calculate for effect … People out there with Parkinson’s are going, ‘Would that we could.’”* Meanwhile, I’ve been wracking my brain trying to figure out why the GOP and its loudmouth surrogate would slander Fox (much less think this was a reasonable strategy). I may have a clue. The actor starred as Marty McFly in Back to the Future II where, in one version of 1985, a newspaper reports: “Nixon to Seek Fifth Term”. But when the real year was restored, the Nixon article changed to “Reagan to Seek Second Term; No Republican Challengers Expected”. The Great Communicator, a one-time Democrat, then Republican, and changed back to a DEMOCRAT? Unthinkable.

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UPDATED: Now Harvey Can’t Get NBC To Run Ad For Dixie Chicks’ ‘Shut Up & Sing’; Claims NBC Said It Disparages Dubya

By | Thursday October 26, 2006 @ 5:55pm PDT

Here’s yet another reason why the FCC needs to crack down on Big Media so it can’t become Monstrous Media. First it was Fox, CNN and NPR refusing to run ads for the Newmarket film Death of a President (opens this weekend) showing the fictional assassination of Dubya. Now, it’s NBC refusing to air ads for a Dixie Chicks’ documentary on, irony of ironies, freedom of speech. The cynical among us might see this as a novel promotional campaign in that today’s news helps the film get publicity before it opens this weekend. But this political vetting of movie ads by the Big Media who decide what we see on TV is also rapidly becoming a new and alarming trend. The Weinstein Group told the media today that NBC claims that the network ‘cannot accept these spots as they are disparaging to President Bush.” The new documentary is a behind-the-scenes look at the incredible 2003 political and media fallout after Dixie Chicks lead singer Natalie Maines said she was “ashamed the president of the United States is from Texas.” The film opens in theaters in NY and Los Angeles on Friday, and in theaters nationwide on November 10th, from The Weinstein Company. Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein issued this statement to the Drudge Report: “It’s a sad commentary about the level of fear in our society that a movie about a group of courageous entertainers who were blacklisted for exercising their right of free speech is now itself being blacklisted by … Read More »

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Madonna’s Malawian Kiddie Book PR Tour

By | Thursday October 26, 2006 @ 2:03pm PDT

madonna-english-roses.jpgI find it fascinating that, in all this incredible and incredulous publicity being generated by Madonna and her attempt to adopt that 13-month-old Malawian boy, almost no media outlets have mentioned this happens to coincide with the publication of her latest kids’ book, The English Roses: Too Good To Be True. With a publishing date of October 24th — two days ago — it just happened that the Queen of Self-Promotion fighting back tears on Oprah wasn’t exactly an impromptu appearance. In fact, she was set to appear there, and other U.S. talk shows over the next days and weeks, to promo the book, a sequel to her first children’s book, The English Roses. The sequel’s plot is about four little girls who, “with a whirling dervish of a teacher and a sprinkle of magic fairy dust, learn valuable lessons about friendship and surviving their first crush.” The older-by-the-minute pop diva’s first children’s story, The English Roses, was published simultaneously around the world Sept. 15, 2003, and topped The New York Times‘ children’s list for the Oct. 5 edition. “It demonstrates once again that Madonna has an extraordinary gift for communicating with children of all ages,” Nicholas Callaway, CEO of Callaway Arts & Entertainment, the book’s U.S. publisher, said at the time. According to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks sales in the United States, Madonna’s first kids’ book sold 57,369 copies in its first full week and ranked No. 5 overall. Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: Bond vs Birds Will Be BIG; Early Tracking Shows ‘Casino Royale’ & ‘Happy Feet’ Running Neck-And-Neck

By | Thursday October 26, 2006 @ 10:56am PDT

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Both films are opening wide on November 17th. But Hollywood couldn’t be pitting two more different films against each other. I’m told the early tracking has just shown up for James Bond vs. The Birds — and they’re running neck-and-neck in their box office race. The good news for both pics is that .007 and the penguins have “the highest awareness of any movie this far out since the summer films,” one of my box office gurus told me this morning. The tracking shows that Sony/MGM’s Casino Royale has a huge male and teen advantage, while Warner Bros.’ Happy Feet has the big leg up with Moms and families. Like, duh. The kiddie flick will have a screen advantage: an estimated 3,700 theaters compared to an estimated 3,400 theaters for the spy. Then again, Casino Royale‘s adult tickets are full price. On the one hand, the Bond franchise has a built-in audience; on the other, there’s a new .007 (Daniel Craig) with a Bourne-like look that doesn’t depend on the gee-whiz gadgetry of yesteryear, and that may put off Bond fans. As for the flock, their CGI film clearly exploits the humongous success of Warner Independent’s Oscar-winning pick-up March of the Penguins; on the other hand, not every animated pic does well at the box office these days. (Remember that Warner’s summer bomb Ant Bully?) With Saw III coming out this weekend, and Santa Clause 3 looking to best both … Read More »

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NYT: Is Barry Diller America’s Highest Paid Chief Exec? Oh Boy, Stock Options!

By | Wednesday October 25, 2006 @ 4:47pm PDT

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The New York Times asks the question whether one-time Hollywood mogul Barry Diller — presently chairman & CEO of IAC/InterActiveCorp (electronic retailing, Internet and interactive media, local media services, online personals, real estate and financial services) – is the highest paid chief executive in America. Well, business reporter Geraldine Fabrikant says it depends on how you figure his wealth. ”Diller was not on the lists earlier this year because his company filed its proxy after most of the initial surveys, based on samples of a few hundred companies, were done. But one recent study that looked at a broader universe of companies estimated his total compensation last year at $295 million – while another recent survey — using a different calculation — figured he was paid $85 million.” If it makes you feel better, Diller’s salary at IAC/Interactive last year “was a relatively modest $726,115″ and supposedly did not draw a salary or receive a bonus in some of the early years of the company. His much more exorbitant payout was in the form of stock options. DollarSigns.jpg“In all, Mr. Diller reaped $469.7 million last year from salary, bonus, other perks and the exercise of existing stock options at IAC/Interactive and Expedia.” Story fronts NYT Business section for Thursday as part of its ongoing Guilded Paychecks series. (And, to think, I remember the days when Diller used to complain bitterly to … Read More »

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Hollywood Agencies: Hot News Topics

By | Wednesday October 25, 2006 @ 3:59pm PDT

Print media have gone Hollywood agency-crazy. Today, United Talent and ICM each get stories in The New York Times and the Wall Street Journal respectively. Loser was the Los Angeles Times, which had a Business section story in-the-works on all the major agencies’ Internet biz — but then got beat by the NYT reporting just on UTA’s new dedicated online unit “devoted to scouting out up-and-coming creators of Internet content — particularly video — and finding work for them in Web-based advertising and entertainment, as well as in the older media.” Actually, all the major agencies are scouting the talent, just not as a dedicated unit. But let’s not let the facts get in the way of a softball plug. (Though the angry LAT reporter did rip UTA a new one this AM.) The Wall Street Journal piece is timed to, well, nothing. It first reads like a boring ICM history lesson and inexplicably waits until the 11th paragraph to talk about ICM’s $70 mil deal for TV powerhouse Broder Webb Chervin Silbermann Agency which it called a “solid start” to ICM’s turnaround after a period of problems. ”So far this year, the two firms together have sold about 145 pilots into development, say ICM officials, and a new spirit of teamwork has helped Broder clients cross over into ICM projects and vice versa, they say.” The next media workups on agencies? I’m told both the Los Angeles Times and Variety are each working on agency … Read More »

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Brad Grey: Redstone “Owns The Candy Store”, Freston’s Ouster “High-Stakes Poker”; Diller: As Old Media “Get More Diversified, They Get Less Well Managed”

By | Wednesday October 25, 2006 @ 12:10pm PDT

Grey.jpgThere was an after-dinner chat with Brad Grey last night at the Forbes MEET 2006 confab held at the Beverly Hills Hotel. PaidContent.org filed on the Paramount Pictures chairman & CEO’s talk. (The website is a media sponsor of the confab.) According to Staci Kramer, “Grey, whose desire to stay at Viacom was questioned in the wake of Tom Freston’s departure, was quite careful to distance himself from Chairman Sumner Redstone’s way of handling both Freston and Tom Cruise—and was equally careful to do respectfully. ‘Sumner Redstone, in my opinion, is Sumner Redstone .. that’s his prerogative and that’s his privilege. He owns the candy store.’ He quickly corrected himself given Viacom’s status as a public company — ‘the majority of the candy store.’ As for Freston, he said he feels badly and misses him ‘but this is high-stakes poker.’ Grey is a funny guy — he actually had a pretty tired audience laughing out loud with his tales of business life with Michael [Eisner], Barry [Diller] and Sumner — but he’s quite serious when it comes to Paramount’s new media future. The subject didn’t come up until the end of the after-dinner conversation with Brent Pulley, Forbes senior editor, but Grey got his message across: ‘Everybody would be very foolish not to embrace technology,’ he said, adding later, ‘For us not … Read More »

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LA Times: Sleepovers at David Geffen’s

By | Wednesday October 25, 2006 @ 10:32am PDT

The other day, a prominent Los Angeles Times writer whom I very much respect confessed something rather startling to me: that he finds himself in the strange position of actively wishing for David Geffen to buy the newspaper. Perhaps more LAT staffers feel the same way, since the paper keeps dwelling on Geffen’s interest in Spring Street in its pages. For instance, here’s more news about Geffen and the Los Angeles Times — from the Times itself. In a story about a Tribune Co. investor who “could be pivotal” in the future of the company, Ariel Capital, and its big kahuna, John W. Rogers Jr. (photo below), the story’s headline could have gone a lot of ways. But it chose to emphasize Rogers’ connection to David Geffen, even though that isn’t even mentioned until the 7th paragraph, and even then it’s described as “casual.” (For non-newspaper types, trust me, that’s a real headline stretch.) Here’s why: as the article itself says, “Ariel’s connections don’t stop at the Tribune boardroom. Rogers’ protegee and a fellow Princeton alum, Ariel President Mellody L. Hobson, 37, is a director of DreamWorks Animation SKG Inc., along with Geffen, the studio’s co-founder. When Hobson visits Los Angeles, she sometimes stays at Geffen’s house. Rogers called Hobson’s ties with Geffen ‘an interesting coincidence’ but cautioned against reading too much into it. As a major shareholder in a company … Read More »

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EXCLUSIVE: ‘Blood Diamond’ Director Ed Zwick Blasts Gossip As “Appalling”; Says Production Set Up Private Africa Fund

By | Tuesday October 24, 2006 @ 8:32am PDT

leo2.jpgBlood Diamond director Ed Zwick is furious over yesterday’s gossip report alleging that Warner Bros made a promise during filming on location to provide prosthetic limbs to orphaned African teenaged and child amputees, and then reneged after the movie wrapped, or that the pledge fulfillment is tied to publicity for the film. “This is a very cynical and appalling tack to take and in the worst taste, especially given what we all tried to do while we were there.” Zwick told me by phone from London. “What I do think is this is the work of someone who clearly bears the film ill will.” All along, the real question behind the scenes of Blood Diamond — an action-adventure pic set against the backdrop of civil war and chaos in the diamond-mining center of 1990s Sierra Leone, starring Leo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly and Djimon Hounsou — is not whether it will be an Oscar contender (probably) or a critics’ favorite (possibly). It’s just how much mud the World Diamond Council and its flacks and flunkies and friends are planning to throw at the well-intentioned film and its too-liberal-for-the-room credits.

Now the answer is clear: a lot, more than enough to dirty its awards chances.

Bonnie Abaunza, the Los Angeles–based director of Amnesty International’s celebrity-outreach program, called the smear “beyond loathsome” because she also knew it was false. “Anybody in the entertainment industry who knows Ed and Leo and Djimon and Jennifer would … Read More »

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CNN & NPR Refuse to Run Ads for ‘Death Of A Prez’; Major Papers See No Problem

By | Monday October 23, 2006 @ 7:20pm PDT

Neither CNN nor NPR will run ads for Newmarket Films’ Death of a President opening this weekend on October 27th, a press release issued by the film’s PR rep said today. Already, two major American cinema chains — Regal Entertainment Group, the No. 1 U.S. cinema operator with more than 6,300 screens in 40 states, and Cinemark USA, which operates roughly 2,500 screens in 34 states – have said they will not show a controversial new movie that depicts the assassination of President George W. Bush. The hugely controversial political thriller from director Gabriel Range, about the fictional assassination of President George W. Bush, became one of the most talked-about films at the Toronto Film festival in September. Since then, the 93-minute pic’s subject matter has led to many protests against even the fictional idea of a movie about the killing a U.S. president, much less a sitting U.S. president. Others, however, believe the documentary-style film has an anti-violence message. Range has said he has received death threats since it screened at Toronto, where it won the Prize of the International Critics (FIPRESCI Prize). (The jury of international film critics cited the film “for the audacity with which it distorts reality to reveal a larger truth.”) Because of its subject matter, the pic had a hard time finding a U.S. distributor until Newmarket stepped forward. Today’s PR release helps the film get publicity before it opens this weekend in mostly art houses and regional … Read More »

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UPDATED: Fox Trimming ‘Borat’ Screens

By | Monday October 23, 2006 @ 4:05pm PDT

1borat.jpgUPDATE: I’m told the latest Borat tracking shows a slight uptick – especially among young males — but Disney’s Santa Clause 3 is still gonna beat it at the box office November 3rd. “Borat gaining, but still no awareness in the middle of the country,” I’m told. ”Fox is cutting back on the number of theaters where it’ll open to just those in the big cities.” So Fox blinked. The studio suddenly trimmed Borat’s opening to just 800 screens in the U.S. and Canada in what it announced was a “tiered theatrical release.” A better word for it would have been retreat. Most of these theaters are in big cities, with the studio hoping that word of mouth will motivate the local yokels to see it. Of course, that was after the much hyped film’s first four minutes were “leaked” onto YouTube on Oct. 19th. (Then again, the whole Studio 60 pilot was “leaked” onto YouTube and its NBC ratings were still crappy.) Fox suits still anticipate this misogynist, anti-Semitic, and utterly hysterical spoof will have legs. But look for Borat and Dreamworks’ kiddie fare Flushed Away to be neck-and-neck for No. 2 (though Sacha Baron Cohen’s admirers will raise the per screen average.) But take note: the “Shrimp Running On A Treadmill” video is still way more of a YouTube favorite than Borat. … Read More »

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