Hollywood is tapping into a new marketing pit stop: political conventions.
Denver saw no less than a mini film festival last week at the Democratic National Convention, with an ongoing series of screenings of politically tinged docs and features.
Delegates to the GOP gathering are seeing their share of films on an even grander scale than those staged in the Mile High City: Director-writer David Zucker (“Airplane!,” “Naked Gun”) screened his upcoming pic “An American Carol” to more than 1,000 conventioneers at the Minneapolis Convention Center. At a lavish reception, Lee Greenwood sang standards and buffets were themed around the armed forces.
The comedy satire, a spoof of “A Christmas Carol,” centers on a Michael Moore-like filmmaker (Kevin Farley) who is campaigning to end the Fourth of July. He gets visited by three ghosts — those of George Washington, George S. Patton and John F. Kennedy — who try to get him to rethink his ways. The cast also includes Kelsey Grammer, Robert Davi, Jon Voight, James Woods, Leslie Nielsen and Dennis Hopper. Fox News’ Bill O’Reilly has a cameo in which he admits to the Moore look-alike, “I just enjoy slapping you.”
Zucker, who wrote the movie with Myrna Sokoloff, doesn’t water down the satire.
The convention attendees “are just surprised at how over the top and funny it is. A lot of the movie is pretty shocking, and I don’t think Republicans are prepared for it because they are not used to movies that laugh at the left,” Zucker said from the Fox News skybox, where spent much of the day Monday promoting the film with Voight. He was attending his first political convention and, among other activities, he planned to attend a dinner with Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush.
“I think we will be doing a lot of promotion on talkradio — anywhere we can reach the main audience for this,” Zucker said. “I think it will attract attention because of the controversial nature of the movie.”
The film skewers protesters, which was especially resonant on Monday after hundreds were arrested outside the Xcel Center.
One of the film’s producers, Steve McEveety, tapped into GOP contacts to co-host the event, including New York hedge fund tycoon Paul Singer. The pic is being released by McEveety’s Mpower Pictures and Vivendi Entertainment.
In addition to Zucker, Voight and Davi, the convention has drawn musicians including John Rich, who sang at a Lifetime Rock the Vote bash on Tuesday, and GOP stalwart Pat Boone, who was seen dining at the CNN Grill. MGM’s Harry Sloan, a supporter of John McCain since the start of his campaign, was expected to come into town for McCain’s acceptance speech. And there was a possibility that Sylvester Stallone would attend.
There’s also a handful of industry figures on the other side of the spectrum. Stuart Townsend screened “Battle in Seattle” on Monday, just as he did for the Democratic Convention, as part of the Impact Film Festival. The fest is hosting screenings in St. Paul as well.
Zucker was a longtime Democrat who backed Al Gore in 2000, but his political views changed after 9/11. He’s a McCain supporter who describes himself as a centrist, pro-choice and pro-environment (he has two Priuses).
“My goal is to convince Republicans to abandon nuclear power,” he said.
Zucker is an unabashed conservative on fiscal issues and national security. He used his creative skills in making biting anti-John Kerry ads for the Club for Growth in 2004 and provocative spots, one of which featured Madeleine Albright painting Osama bin Laden’s cave, for the Republican National Committee in 2006.
He has no plans yet to cut spots or take some other role this year — but he would like to.
“I almost can’t resist,” he said. “Humor is so ripe for this political season.”