Savoy Theater Targeted for Showing ‘Fahrenheit 9-11’

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(Host) A local movie theater is feeling the effects of a controversy surrounding filmmaker Michael Moore’s newest documentary. As VPR’s Neal Charnoff reports, a partisan e-mail campaign has erupted targeting the new film, “Fahrenheit 9-11.”

(Charnoff) Montpelier’s Savoy Theater is a small movie-house dedicated to showcasing independent and foreign films.

When Savoy co-owner Rick Winston booked Moore’s new documentary “Fahrenheit 9-11,” he was aware that the filmmaker was known for courting controversy. What Winston didn’t expect was to be the target of an e-mail campaign surrounding the film’s release.

Winston says the Savoy has received nearly 2,000 e-mails from around the country, divided among Moore’s supporters and detractors.

Moore rattled the General Motors corporation in the movie “Roger and Me,” and badgered Charlton Heston in “Bowling for Columbine.” “Fahrenheit 9-11” is Moore’s take on the Bush administration policies, and how the media covered the war in Iraq.

(Sound from the movie) “From the corridors of power…”

(Charnoff) “Fahrenheit 9-11” is described as an alternative history of the three years since September 11, including stories and events Moore says the mainstream media ignored.

The only people to have seen the movie prior to its release were critics at the Cannes Film Festival, and members of a congressional delegation. But that hasn’t stopped an organization called Move America Forward from trying to prevent “Fahrenheit 9-11” from being shown. Their Web site has a list of theaters that booked the movie, and asks people to contact those theaters to protest the film.

Rick Winston says he first started receiving e-mails last week, and his inbox is averaging about 500 messages a day, both for and against the movie.

(Winston) “Here’s one from California that says, ‘It comes with great disappointment that your theaters have decided to play this anti-American, anti-military and anti-Bush movie. It is pure propaganda against this country and you are aiding and abetting an enemy within. I will choose not to attend any of your theaters unless this changes.'”

(Charnoff) Winston finds it curious that people thousands of miles away are threatening to boycott the Savoy, which is independently owned, and not part of any corporate theater chain. But he says a counterattack by other Web sites, including Moore’s, has resulted in a flurry of mostly positive e-mails.

(Winston) “Some of the other e-mails that I’m getting have said, don’t be fooled by this organization, Move America Forward is actually a creation of a highly connected public relations firm that does a lot of work for the Republican Party. And the signs are that this organization was formed specifically to pressure theaters not to show this movie.”

(Charnoff) “Fahrenheit 9-11” is booked to run four weeks at the Savoy Theater. The film is also playing at Merrill’s Roxy Cinema in Burlington. The Roxy is not listed on Move America Forward’s Web site, and a spokesman for the theater says they haven’t received any e-mails about the film.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Neal Charnoff.

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