This article was updated at 7:11 p.m.
NEW YORK — A conservative group that pressured CBS to cancel “The Reagans” miniseries last year now is leaning on U.S. theater owners to drop Michael Moore’s “Fahrenheit 9/11” from their release lineup.
Dubbed Move America Forward, the new org was formed last month to rally support for U.S. troops in Iraq and for the Bush government’s proclaimed war on terrorism.
“Michael Moore has the right to free speech,” said MAF chairman Howard Kaloogian. “But so do millions of Americans who find his anti-military propaganda and attacks on our troops offensive.”
Kaloogian is a former Assemblyman from Carlsbad, Calif. who was active in last year’s gubernatorial recall.
Describing documaker Moore as a “domestic enemy,” MAF urged the public to take a stand against the film and its director, supplying phone contacts and personal email addresses for execs at national and local theaters where “Fahrenheit” has been booked.
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That list includes both mainstream commercial chains and specialty exhibs, among them Loews Cineplex and Landmark Theaters.
Neither Loews nor Landmark execs had any comment on the action.
June 25 release
The Palme d’Or-winning film is slated for a June 25 release through Lions Gate Films, IFC Films and the Fellowship Adventure Group, set up by Bob and Harvey Weinstein.
“Since we are the customers of the American movie theaters, it is important for us to speak up loudly and tell the industry executives that we don’t want this misleading and grotesque movie being shown at our local cinema,” reads a statement on the MAF Web site. “We need these executives to be overwhelmed with letters, phone calls and faxes, in addition to emails.”
The MAF Web site also encourages protesters to petition theater chains that have not yet committed screens to the release, a list that it says includes Regal Entertainment Group, AMC Theaters, Carmike Cinemas, Century Theaters, Mann Theatres, Crown Theaters and Clearview Cinemas.
MAF may be too late to have much impact on the release campaign. According to F911tix.com, all of those chains, with the exception of Clearview, have already booked the doc.
“One of the most important lessons everyone can take from ‘Fahrenheit 9/11,’ whether they support the war in Iraq, oppose the war or are undecided, is that we need less censorship in this country, not more,” said Tom Ortenberg, president of Lions Gate Films Releasing. “With that in mind, it is particularly distressing to see certain organizations calling for the censorship of this film.”
Separately, distribs are preparing an appeal against the Motion Picture Assn. of America’s decision to give the film an R rating.
Following last week’s celebrity-laden screenings in Los Angeles, a similar phalanx of high-profile entertainment and media figures was expected at Monday night’s New York premiere of “Fahrenheit,” which was moved from its original venue at the Beekman Theater to the larger Ziegfeld to accommodate the bulging guestlist.
Among those skedded to attend the event, hosted by the Weinsteins, heavyweight attorney David Boies and Moore, are Tom Brokaw, Richard Gere, Bryant Gumbel, Hugh Jackman, Barry Levinson, Yoko Ono, Lou Reed, Al Sharpton, Stephen Sondheim, Mike Wallace and Brian Williams.
Organizers of MAF also were involved in the Defend Reagan Committee, which leaned on CBS to remove the mini about Ronald and Nancy Reagan from its sked; it eventually aired on pay cabler Showtime.
Similar to the majority of advance protests that were heard before the release of “The Passion of the Christ,” the MAF diatribe carries no indication that anyone involved has actually seen Moore’s film.
Like Mel Gibson’s controversial religious drama, the mudslinging only stands to further pump public awareness and fuel interest in a release that’s shaping up to outperform Moore’s “Bowling for Columbine,” which grossed $23 million in the U.S.
Moore could not be reached for comment on the MAF protest.