Disney blocks new Michael Moore film
May 5, 2004 4:26 AM   Subscribe

Disney is blocking its Miramax division from distributing a new documentary by Michael Moore that harshly criticizes President Bush. The New York Times reports that Disney head Michael Eisner "expressed particular concern that [the film] would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor."
posted by tranquileye (57 comments total)

 
You'd think Disney would have worked this out by now, since they first made the decision a year ago. Doesn't seem like it's going to generate the best press in the world for them. Of course, now the film is guaranteed lots of press because of the scandal, and then because of the content.
posted by VulcanMike at 4:36 AM on May 5, 2004


The first thing I thought after reading this was to wonder when Fox News will air a response to Moore's film in another testament to journalistic objectivity.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:39 AM on May 5, 2004


You work with corporate behemoths, you inevitably get burned. I hope Moore learns his lesson.
posted by reklaw at 5:30 AM on May 5, 2004


Eisner sure has a big mouth, doesn't he ? How entertaining for us that he was so incriminatingly candid. (He may have just poked a few holes in his own severance package).

It sounds like Disney is under contractual obligation to distribute Miramax films unless they are especially smutty. This is a guaranteed black eye for the big bad mouse.

It couldn't happen to a nicer mega-rodent.
posted by troutfishing at 5:34 AM on May 5, 2004


I have sent email to Roy Disney and Stanley Gold at their website at savedisney.com, requesting a statement from them on this matter. I have also used their site to contact several members of Disney's board of directors. I suggest that you all do the same.

Frankly, this might be the straw that breaks Michael Eisner's back. If Disney tries to censor political discourse by blocking the release of a #1 bestselling author and an Oscar-winning director, they can expect to alienate themselves from a whole lot of Americans in the process.

Last I heard, we Americans don't support such things... right?!
posted by insomnia_lj at 5:35 AM on May 5, 2004


Reklaw, film-makers have very little choice if they want their films to be distributed. If you want to produce and release a documentary in a timely fashion(say before the next election), you need a distributor like Miramax. Almost no large media is independent.

I think CNN/Time/Viacom is guilt of the same pandering. It's a scary state of affairs.
posted by gesamtkunstwerk at 5:41 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:51 AM on May 5, 2004


And then there's the expected political/economic retribution Eisner feared from Jeb Bush.

The Bush family members certainly get mad, but they also sure do make it a point to get even. Valerie Plame, anyone ? Eisner might have a big mouth, but he's not stupid.

If this story had not been publicized and Miramax had distributed the film, I'm sure Jeb would have exacted a tail-price.

Now, the heat's on, and the Gov'll have to figure out a sneakier way to get even. But for Jeb "I've got a devious plan to thwart the will of Florida voters as expressed in that voter's constitutional amendment on school class size" Bush (see Metafilter 20589..... that'll be a piece uh greasy 'ol cake.
posted by troutfishing at 5:53 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.

Oh, of course not...as the sleepless one quite rightly pointed out:

#1 bestselling author and an Oscar-winning director, they can expect to alienate themselves from a whole lot of Americans in the process.

Of course, people who want to watch Michael Moore can't call themself true Americans, hey techgnollogic?
posted by Jimbob at 5:55 AM on May 5, 2004


techgnollogic - Oh, I beg to differ. Moore may be a blowhard, but he's helped to bring me and my gun owning relatives closer together with his "it's not the guns, it's the culture" theme (explored in "Bowling For Columbine") - which picks up on the fact that rates of gun violence are dramatically higher in the US than in Canada in spite of the fact that gun ownership levels in Canada aren't much lower, per capita, than in the US (though there are a lot more handguns in the US, yes).

American liberals have long demonized gun owners - I think it was brilliant of Moore to blow open this prejudice. He was, I think making a pointed suggestion to the DNC - which may be, I'm afraid, too dense to pick up on the suggestion. But I'm not, and - now that I've dropped my last vestiges of liberal gun-guilt - I can happily go shooting with my in-laws.
posted by troutfishing at 6:05 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.

As opposed to Adam Sandler's latest film Fucking a Turtle in a Tub of Poop or whatever. Clearly, films of that value need to be out before the Thanksgiving rush. The fact that you tried to make Hollywood of all places an arbiter of value made your troll comment even sillier than normal.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:08 AM on May 5, 2004


Who wants to bet that the film will still be released overseas and will flood back into the US on hundreds of thousands of bootlegs DVDs and DIVXs, before being released into the theatres by Disney AFTER THE ELECTION 'due to overwhelming public demand'?
posted by tapeguy at 6:13 AM on May 5, 2004


[ And, while we drive to the gun range in a big 'ol SUV, I'll explain to them that - since the oil's running out - the US has to immediately begin a crash project to convert to a hydrogen based transportation system. SUV's will run just fine on hydrogen. ]

Moore drives an SUV. Maybe he needs one. He's a big man, and fat too. Hmm.....neutralizing conservative shibboleths.... 1) Gun rights - check 2) SUV ownership - check 3) (fill in the blank)

XQUZYPHYR - can I mail you my coffee-spewed keyboard, for cleaning?
posted by troutfishing at 6:13 AM on May 5, 2004


Troutfishing -- I think that Moore didn't get through to the liberals, despite trying. All of the stereotypical urban liberals I know who saw it came out of the movie all the more resolved in their gun-grabbing fervor. They recognize the message of "it's not the guns, it's the culture" but their remedy is to take away the guns to break the back of the culture...
posted by MattD at 6:18 AM on May 5, 2004


tapeguy - I'm trying to swear off shooting fish in barrels, with a shotgun.

Then again, this may be a great opportunity for a "Disney=Censorship" campaign. There's already some Congressional heat on the Mouse for this. I don't think the suppression of this film is a given.
posted by troutfishing at 6:18 AM on May 5, 2004


MattD - ( *rolls eyes* ) Yeah, well - it got through to me. Dumb liberals, dumb conservatives..... What are ya' gonna do ?

Go fishing.....with a shotgun?
posted by troutfishing at 6:22 AM on May 5, 2004


Good. This is the best news I've heard all week.

- No publicity is bad publicity.

- Eisner, yet again, looks like a jackass. Any Disney shareholder with two brain cells to rub together should be wondering, out loud, why they won't release a film with a guaranteed profit (documentaries are cheap cheap cheap, and Moore's films have a built-in audience).

- Either Disney caves and lets Miramax release the film, which will have a ton of buzz because of this, or Miramax sells distribution rights to another company.

The film is showing at Cannes. It will get stateside release. Everyone wins, except Eisner.
posted by mkultra at 8:09 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.

He offers us much much more than what you are currently offering, techgnollogic.
posted by ashbury at 8:15 AM on May 5, 2004


This American Democracy seems to have more holes in it nowadays than, say, Swiss cheese (actually, the Greeks had a word for this kind of democracy; they called it “plutocracy”: he who has lots of money calls all the shots.
posted by acrobat at 8:33 AM on May 5, 2004


Surprising that no one (including the linked story) has mentioned HarperCollins, and their brilliant scheme to keep Moore's work out of the public eye because it was too critical of the president. Hmmmm, how'd that work out?

Moore may be a big fat blowhard, and he may have nothing to offer people like techgnollogic, but one thing he definitely is is media-savvy. Just watch: This film will be released, before election day, and it will be seen by a great many more Americans because of Disney's short-sighted and transparently self-serving heavy-handedness.

Must stop now as I've run out of hyphens.
posted by soyjoy at 8:40 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.

Thank you, Mr.There's lots and lots of good stuff going on in Iraq.
posted by y2karl at 8:43 AM on May 5, 2004


Thanks Disney. Like his last film, this one will probably start with a good concept and go horribly wrong; but thanks to you Disney, people have already begun the fiery debate over it's merit, and the subject matter - this criminally negligent administration. Please stand your ground, so that when the film is finally distributed the tagline will be: "The Film they didn't want you to see!".

Bravo!
posted by 2sheets at 9:14 AM on May 5, 2004


"Mr. Moore said the film describes financial connections between the Bush family and its associates and prominent Saudi Arabian families that go back three decades. He said it closely explores the government's role in the evacuation of relatives of Mr. bin Laden from the United States immediately after the 2001 attacks."

This is also the subject of the book "House of Bush, House of Saud."
posted by homunculus at 9:17 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:51 AM PST on May 5


Tell ya what. Why not demonstrate with actual data that it is your comment which has anything of value techgnollogic?
posted by rough ashlar at 9:23 AM on May 5, 2004


I say they should block the distribution of this movie. I think they should block distribution of all movies, quite frankly. Movies suck.
posted by jonmc at 9:24 AM on May 5, 2004


I hope Moore learns his lesson.

Oh, he has. He's even applying what he's learned so far, right now! See? We're talking about a movie that isn't even out yet, that Miramax or someone else is going to put out and will make a tidy profit for anyone willing to jump in.

Eisner can't win this one, and Moore can't lose.


Also, word up, jon.
posted by chicobangs at 9:29 AM on May 5, 2004


They keep giving him more things to make movies about. At a certain point, you would think they'd learn that Michael Moore enjoys conflict, and is a bit of an inciter, and would try to stay under his radar. Wait, no, I'm sure there's not skeletons in Disney's closet to fill a whole movie. Nevermind!

Eisner doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.
posted by Hildago at 9:39 AM on May 5, 2004


Does anyone else think the mouse would make great fodder for the next Michael Moore movie?! It's certainly shaping up that way...
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:47 AM on May 5, 2004


"Eisner doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway."

But he's the one who brought us Hidalgo, Hidalgo!
posted by insomnia_lj at 9:51 AM on May 5, 2004


"Adam Sandler's latest film Fucking a Turtle in a Tub of Poop"

Christ, now you tell me.

*tears up screenplay-in-progress*
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:56 AM on May 5, 2004


Any Disney shareholder with two brain cells to rub together should be wondering, out loud, why they won't release a film with a guaranteed profit (documentaries are cheap cheap cheap, and Moore's films have a built-in audience).


Actually, if the article is to be believed, shareholders would not want to piss off Jeb, because he would then remove their tax breaks. Which would then cause their earnings to plummet. Making the stock worth less.

Any one else tired of being hectored by Sr. Moore? No? Guess it's just me then.
posted by haqspan at 10:02 AM on May 5, 2004


1. Create controversial project under the auspices of major media company, knowing it will probably upset them.
2. Media company gets all upset and threatens to refuse to distribute project.
3. Garner enormous publicity as a result of the 'Man' censoring the project and keeping it from the people.
5. People crave what they cannot have/ what's being kept from them: protest, lobbying, etc.
4. Media corp. capitulates under massive outcry.
5. P R O F I T.

Fuckin' A.

Worked with Murdoch. Will work with Disney.
posted by Blue Stone at 10:13 AM on May 5, 2004


I'm with Blue Stone -- a publicity ploy sounds all too plausible, actually. It seems like a perfect set up to boost attention for the movie, while avoiding any pitfalls (read: Jeb pulls the Disney tax breaks) when they "give in to pressure" and "do the right thing". How could Florida punish Disney once the threat of retaltiation has been pointed out?

Well, I bet they still could.
posted by mooncrow at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2004


I'd imagine Eisner is much smarter than you folks are giving him credit for. This is the perfect win-win move to make in this situation. You create a buzz and excitement for a movie you are going to release (eventually). You head off political fallout for your company by airing the dirty laundry in public and distancing yourself from the message/messenger.

Now if they can only get a Bill O'Reilly/Fox News lawsuit laughed out of court they'd have the Triple Crown.
posted by aaronscool at 10:32 AM on May 5, 2004


Blue Stone, Murdoch is way better at that game than Eisner is. For all his business & entertainment acumen, he could screw this up. Which would be the last we ever hear of him.

Moore, though, will make out okay. He'll just crawl of his haystack and take his needle somewhere else if this plan with Miramax doesn't work out. Its win-win for him.
posted by chicobangs at 10:34 AM on May 5, 2004


It's easy to understand how Michael Moore and perhaps Miramax profit from the way this is playing out. But could Disney also profit by it?

Let's see: Disney owns Miramax, so increased profits from this publicity are ultimately good for Disney. Meanwhile, Michael Eisner has made a public show trying to keep the movie down, so he has plausible deniability in the matter. And at the same time, Eisner has publicly called out the possibility of unethical retribution in Florida, thereby making it more difficult for Jeb Bush to make that happen.

Could turn out to be a pretty tidy package.
posted by alms at 10:36 AM on May 5, 2004


Actually, if the article is to be believed, shareholders would not want to piss off Jeb, because he would then remove their tax breaks.

Read the article. It's only Eisner who's voicing concerns about tax issues, and it's all theoretical hysteria at this point. It'll never happen, anyway. Tax breaks or no, Disney generates tons of revenue and jobs for Florida, probably more than any other single corporation. No matter how big your political grudge, you don't pick that fight.

Any one else tired of being hectored by Sr. Moore?

How, exactly, would he be hectoring you? Last time I checked, people paid for the opportunity to hear his views. Is he knocking on your door and bothering you with his rants? If so, I take it all back.
posted by mkultra at 10:53 AM on May 5, 2004


I would love to see what this does to EuroDisney. Foreigners LOVE Michael Moore. Go into any bookstore in Europe and you will see all his books prominently displayed at the front of the store (same goes for Al Franken).
Then again, is there still a EuroDisney?
posted by culberjo at 11:15 AM on May 5, 2004


I'm with Blue Stone -- a publicity ploy sounds all too plausible, actually.

Down and Dirty Pictures, which i just read, is way too long and even exhausting at times, but fascinating about how Miramax manipulates the press.
posted by LeLiLo at 11:28 AM on May 5, 2004


Moore doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway.

God im dying to hear the why... its easy to be vague.
posted by Satapher at 12:02 PM on May 5, 2004


It's great to know that Jeb Bush has sole, whimsical control over the Florida tax code! It's good to be the king... Oh wait, that Saudi Arabia. Oh wait, nevermind.
posted by micropublishery at 12:17 PM on May 5, 2004


So I'm assuming that Disney will be taking Sean Hannity off the air in San Francisco since they own KSFO, and don't want to be politically divisive.
posted by bas67 at 12:46 PM on May 5, 2004


Reklaw, film-makers have very little choice if they want their films to be distributed.

Have we learned nothing from Howard Dean's campaign? Use the internet, Luke.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 12:50 PM on May 5, 2004


I'm sure if word got out that a Jerry Falwell movie explaining how 9/11 was the fault of gays and abortion doctors wasn't going to be distributed, and I came on MeFi and said "Falwell doesn't have anything of value to offer anyway," the exact same people would be asking me for "proof" and calling me a troll. Sure they would.

It's my fucking opinion, crybabies. Feel free to find your own.
posted by techgnollogic at 12:51 PM on May 5, 2004


The film is showing at Cannes. It will get stateside release. Everyone wins, except Eisner.

A couple of you expressed the idea that because lots of outfits would now be interested in distributing this movie, it WILL get distributed in a timely fashion. I don't think that's correct. I am not intimate with the laws surrounding movie distribution, but I am pretty sure those rights get sold on an exclusive basis. It's like when Warner Bro's decided not to distribute copies of "Cop Killer" any more--Ice T couldn't just find the highest bidder among Warner's competition and let them distribute the single. The song was effectively suppressed for the life of his contract with Warner. If the distribution deal is inked and contains no play-or-revert conditions, Moore is probably at their mercy.

Also, I will be showing the divx at my house if you guys want to come over. (offer not available to troll people).
posted by damehex at 2:45 PM on May 5, 2004


chicobangs: Moore, though, will make out okay. He'll just crawl of his haystack and take his needle somewhere else if this plan with Miramax doesn't work out. Its win-win for him.

I think you may be mistaken: I read somewhere in all of this coverage that Miramax is not only the distributor of record, they financed it (which I can easily imagine Harvey Weinstein doing, just to screw with Micheal Eisner). Moore may well have to come up with several million dollars cash to buy the print back from Miramax before he can even start looking for another distributer. Anybody else catch that in reading some of these articles?
posted by JollyWanker at 2:54 PM on May 5, 2004


The New York Times reports that Disney head Michael Eisner "expressed particular concern...

Tranquileye - That is a horrible manipulation of what the Times reported and I'm surprised after 50 comments no one has corrected it.
What the Times actually reported is this: "Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel... said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern..." (go look for yourself if you don't trust my elipses)

The claim that Eisner made such a stupid statement about tax breaks is backed by the suspect credibility of Michael Moore's agent, not by the well established journalistic integrity of The New York Times.
posted by Wingy at 2:56 PM on May 5, 2004


This doesn't look like the end for the movie by a long way. Firstly Miramax could pass to another distributor. They would then lose half the profits but then if the alternative is that the film risks not being shown prior to the election and Bush gets booted out, then they'll be in possession of a film no one can be bothered to watch.

Anyway everyone knows this film will make a shitload of cash, even if it is just preaching to the choir, so any company would be stupid to turn it down. If I was a Disney shareholder I'd be pushing for the film to be distributed for that reason alone. And another thing, who's bigger - Jeb Bush or Mickey Mouse? The Mouse House just has to threaten to move out of the state (the reason I suppose they get so many tax breaks anyway) and people would be screaming for Jeb's head.
posted by dodgygeezer at 3:06 PM on May 5, 2004


According to this Reuters article, Moore and his agents have known for almost a year that Disney/Eisner had told Miramax/Weinstein not to handle the film. The fact that Cannes opens in just a week lends credence to the idea that this is just another "publicity stunt" on Moore's part...
posted by JollyWanker at 3:09 PM on May 5, 2004


Well, it worked here.
posted by troutfishing at 3:42 PM on May 5, 2004


I bet this is Harvey Weinstein's doing, big power play to get Eisner to look utterly stupid.
posted by Space Coyote at 4:00 PM on May 5, 2004


But he's the one who brought us Hidalgo, Hidalgo!

Yet another thing he'll have to account for when the revolution comes knocking on his door.
posted by Hildago at 5:12 PM on May 5, 2004


Any one else tired of being hectored by Sr. Moore? No? Guess it's just me then.

No haqspan, gotcha right here. I'm a British liberal democrat which I guess would put me on the left wing of Kerry's democrats. Bowling for Columbine was a _huge_ disappointment; just as Moore had a chance to enter the belly of the beast and actually talk issues with Heston, he squandered a valuable opportunity by knowingly backing Heston into a corner by insisting on an apology rather than engaging him on his rationale and undermining its validity.

And let's not even talk about that silly Stupid White Men book; much of the content is thought provoking but it reads like a it was written by a 12 year old ODing on tartrazine and desperately in need of Ritalin...
posted by dmt at 5:29 PM on May 5, 2004


It's pretty obvious to me what's going on here, a financial decision all around. Disney doesn't want to release this, just like they didn't want to release Dogma or O(thello) a few years back. Miramax picked up and financed for $6 mil (hefty for a documentary) a movie they KNEW that they couldn't release. Now, a week before Cannes where this will be the most talked about movie there with sold out showings and endless standing ovations smack dab in anti-Bush country. There will be a bidding war, Miramax will get a pretty penny when they sell it to either Lions Gate or NewMarket (now flush with cash). Since they've already sold the worldwide rights (angry fundy mobs only care about U.S. distribution), Miramax has already turned a profit in the deal and will make even more when this gets sold for $10 mil sometime within the next two weeks.

Disney will not prevent this from being released, like the Ice-T song, the company can't afford to toss away $10 mil in free cash.

And Micheal Moore is a winner too, because he gets free pub for his movie, which will then become the biggest grossing docu film of all time, beating his own Bowling for Columbine.

Disney, Miramax, and Moore win. The movie will be released.
posted by graventy at 6:02 PM on May 5, 2004


The mouse that censored
posted by homunculus at 8:18 PM on May 5, 2004


jollywanker, it's not unusual for production outfits to want to offload a film...the notice served in May 2003 wasn't due to Disney thinking Moore's F-911 was full of lies. from eisner's mouth:

"[Disney] did not want [to release] a film in the middle of the political process where we're such a nonpartisan company, and our guests that participate in all of our attractions do not look for us to take sides." -Eisner, CNBC via Hollywood Reporter

however, Disney just released Kill Bill Vol. 1, which includes a tiny bit of ultra-violence...making me wonder if they care about their 'attraction guests' seeing mass killings.

see...it comes down to this: Disney is afraid of boycotts and controversy when this film hits. they're afraid, plain and simple...they just weren't adamant about it until they saw the final version.

so teach your kids: the news/entertainment they see/hear/read is what a few people think is best for them. that should make all patriotic citizens smile - just don't let any sand in your mouth while your head is buried.
posted by NationalKato at 1:46 PM on May 6, 2004


Meanwhile, a film mocking the mullahs is a hit in Iran.
posted by homunculus at 2:41 PM on May 6, 2004


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