Moore pic calls to Gauls

'9/11' bow France's fifth best this year

This article was updated at 7:29 p.m.

PARIS — French cinemagoers turned out in force on the opening day of “Fahrenheit 9/11” on Wednesday, hoisting the pic up to this year’s fifth best opener.

Pic notched up ticket sales of 4,372 in Paris in its first 2 p.m. showing, slightly behind the opening performance of “Kill Bill Vol. 2” but ahead of pics such as “The Day After Tomorrow,” “Two Brothers,” “Van Helsing” and “Troy.”

The “Fahrenheit” camp said late Wednesday that some 30,000 tickets had been sold in Paris and 60,000 tickets elsewhere in France on the first day.

The film has been released on some 231 prints, a quarter of the number that would launch a blockbuster in France. (Plans apparently call for 100 more prints to be struck next week if the pic continues to perform well.)

“It’s huge,” enthused distrib Stephane Celerier, managing director of StudioCanal subsid Mars Distribution. “It’s a historic record for a documentary.”

A spokesman for France’s Federation of Exhibitors was equally upbeat. “It’s a little too early to begin estimating its final cume but the film has passed the first opening day test with flying colors.”

The film’s successful French bow was widely expected. Moore enjoys a big following in France — “Bowling for Columbine” notched up sales of more than a million tickets.

And this time around, his choice of subject matter — mirroring widespread anti-Bush, anti-war sentiment in France — could hardly have been a more likely crowd-pleaser.

Moore’s chubby, bespectacled face was all over the French news media Wednesday.

The daily Liberation put the documaker on its cover and devoted three full pages to the “Fahrenheit” phenom.

“Americans have never seen the victims of 9/11. They never see the Iraq war wounded nor the mutilated veterans. Michael Moore has prospered from this occultation,” the paper opined.

“The widows, the men in pieces, the psychiatric cases, the wounded lying in pools of blood on the streets of Baghdad aren’t on television — they are in Moore’s film.”

The right wing press was, of course, less enthusiastic.

Le Figaro put “Spider-Man 2,” which comes out next week, on the cover of its weekly culture listings supplement, and in its review of “Fahrenheit,” the paper called the film “reductionist manipulative propaganda that is not very intelligent nor informative.”

At the opening-day 5 p.m. show at Paris’s Les Halles theater, attendants roamed the aisles with flashlights searching for vacant seats in the packed space, as laughter rose up in the opening scene.

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