Monday, May 09, 2005

How Michael Moore Made $21 Million

Paranoia for Fun and Profit - How Disney and Michael Moore cleaned up on Fahrenheit 9/11. By Edward Jay-Epstein:
"On the Fahrenheit 9/11 DVD, Moore says he resolved to get the film seen in America 'by hook or by crook.' His hook was censorship.

On May 5, 2004, the New York Times ran a front-page article headlined 'Disney Is Blocking Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush.' The story included the sensational charge that Eisner 'expressed particular concern that [choosing to distribute Fahrenheit 9/11] would endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures in Florida, where Mr. Bush's brother, Jeb, is governor.' The source for this allegation was Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel. Two days later, Moore claimed on his Web site that Disney's board of directors rejected Fahrenheit 9/11 'last week.' In fact, the Disney board had not made such a decision in 2004 - the project had been vetoed in 2003.

Moore's excursion from reality proved a boon at Cannes. On May 22, 2004, the Cannes jury defied putative efforts to censor Moore by awarding Fahrenheit 9/11 the prestigious Palme d'Or. Moore now had a golden palm in his hand and the media at his feet - with more free publicity than any Hollywood studio could afford to buy, Fahrenheit 9/11 now stood to rake in a fortune...

Under normal circumstances, documentaries rarely, if ever, make profits (especially if distributors charge the usual 33 percent fee). So, when Miramax made the deal for Fahrenheit 9/11, it allowed Moore a generous profit participation—which turned out to be 27 percent of the film's net receipts. Disney, in honoring this deal, paid Moore a stunning $21 million. Moore never disclosed the amount of his profit participation. When asked about it, the proletarian Moore joked to reporters on a conference call, "I don't read the contracts."

...Michael Moore had perhaps the happiest ending of all. Not only had he made $21 million, he already had a sequel in preproduction—Fahrenheit 9/11 ½."

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