Sony hot on ‘9/11’ vid deal

Columbia TriStar expected to release DVD, VHS this fall

Still igniting ticket sales at the box office, Michael Moore’s hot-button doc “Fahrenheit 9/11” is generating heat for a homevideo deal.

Sony is set to acquire domestic home entertainment rights to the Bush-bashing pic and is expected to release DVD and VHS versions through its Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment division this fall.

Sony would not comment, but sources said the studio is close to sealing the deal.

Other bidders included Lions Gate and Universal.

U had balked at buying the theatrical distribution rights to “Fahrenheit” because homevid rights weren’t included in the package.

Moore’s 2002 doc “Bowling for Columbine” made $21 million at the box office and brought $12 million in homevid revenue to MGM. Sony can expect to see much more than that amount, considering that “Fahrenheit” has already grossed $60 million since its June 25 release.

A DVD release date for “Fahrenheit” has not been set, though there has been talk of a late-September release in order to precede the Nov. 2 presidential election.

Moore has indicated in interviews that he hopes to influence voters. “Fahrenheit” will convince “a lot of swing voters, independents and even Republicans,” he has said.

The Palme d’Or-winning doc takes a scathing look at President Bush and the administration’s decision to go to war in Iraq.

After Disney refused to distribute “Fahrenheit” due to its controversial subject, Miramax toppers Bob and Harvey Weinstein bought back the film with personal funds and enlisted Lions Gate and IFC Films to release it.

One issue facing Sony as it prepares to unleash the DVD is piracy.

Pirated copies of “Fahrenheit” have already been seen for sale on the streets of Los Angeles, and Web sites such as claim to have served as many as 17 million downloads.

Moore has voiced a laissez-faire attitude toward curbing the illegal practice.

“I don’t agree with the copyright laws and I don’t have a problem with people downloading the movie and sharing it with people as long as they’re not trying to make a profit off my labor,” he has said.

“The more people who see it the better, so I’m happy this is happening.”

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