Docu fires up local wickets

This article was updated at 8:08 p.m.

“Fahrenheit 9/11″ burned up the box office at the two Gotham theaters that opened Michael Moore’s doc on Wednesday.

Lions Gate and IFC Films reported that “Fahrenheit” took in $49,000 at the Loews Village 7 and $31,700 from the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas. Final results will be released today.

“Fahrenheit” opens nationally at 868 theaters Friday.

Figures reflect sellouts of all Wednesday shows at both theaters, which were playing the pic on three screens each.

“Fahrenheit” set house records at both theaters. Previous one-day record holder at the arthouse Lincoln Plaza was “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon,” which grossed $24,013 on Dec. 8, 2000. At Loews Village, the top title had been “Men in Black” ($43,435) on July 4, 1997.

“We’re thrilled with the opening-day response,” said Lions Gate prexy Tom Ortenberg, “particularly that the film is playing so well at the arthouse and the commercial theater.”

After celeb-heavy screenings in Gotham and L.A. over the past month, Michael Moore took “Fahrenheit 9/11″ to the Beltway crowd Wednesday.

About 800 people, a mix of Democratic lawmakers, lobbyists and media figures, were invited to a screening at the Uptown Theater (it started 45 minutes late) and a party later at the Left Bank.

Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) were among those attending. Other guests included Reps. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and Jim McDermott (D-Was.). and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D-S.D.). On the Hollywood side, Harvey Weinstein, Sally Field and Ari Emanuel attended.

Moore spoke before and after the screening, claiming at one point that “It’s not just us walking down the red carpet, but all of America” and reiterating, as he quoted Abraham Lincoln, that, “If you give people the facts, the Republic will be safe.”

Moore also announced 10 benefit screenings to take place tonight. Among the fund-raisers, the New York Review of Books will host a show at the Chelsea West Theater in Gotham to support the New York Civil Liberties Union.

Other benefit screenings will take place tonight in San Francisco, Miami, Chicago, Minneapolis, Oklahoma City, Denver, Boston, Seattle and Portland, Ore.

Beneficiaries include local civil liberties and liberal groups, the September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and the Portland Peace and Justice Works. Latter group reported selling out all 288 of the tickets available within 24 hours.

In L.A., liberal activist groups CodePink, the Committee to Redefeat the President and the Orange County Peace Coalition announced plans to converge at the ArcLight when the pic opens Friday. Groups said their members would dress up as characters from the film such as ” ‘Golfin’ George W., Scary Saddam, Chilling Dick Cheney and Rambunctious Rummy.”

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