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The Tally Ho

Wednesday, May 05, 2004

Is Disney Protecting

A Tax Deal with Jebya?

This month Michael Moore will present his new film "Fahrenheit 911" at the Cannes Film Festival, but we in America may be waiting until a new distributer is found. Disney has owned Miramax for about a decade and is forbidding Miramax from releasing the film, which they legally can do. Jim Rutenberg's article Disney Forbidding Distribution of Film That Criticizes Bush in the New York Times states:

"Mr. Moore's agent, Ari Emanuel, said that Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chief executive, asked him last spring to pull out of the deal with Miramax. Mr. Emanuel said Mr. Eisner expressed particular concern that it would anger Gov. Jeb Bush of Florida and endanger tax breaks Disney receives for its theme park, hotels and other ventures there.

"Michael Eisner asked me not to sell this movie to Harvey Weinstein; that doesn't mean I listened to him," Mr. Emanuel said. "He definitely indicated there were tax incentives he was getting for the Disney corporation and that's why he didn't want me to sell it to Miramax. He didn't want a Disney company involved."

Disney executives deny that accusation, though they said their displeasure over the deal was made clear to Miramax and Mr. Emanuel."

Why would the Governor of Florida be upset? Rutenberg continues,

"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 decision to help members of the bin Laden family leave the United States immediately after the 2001 attacks. The film includes comments from American soldiers on the ground in Iraq expressing disillusionment with the war, he said."

A new book by Craig Unger also discusses this relationship (link here). Whatever you think of Moore's work, it is clear that his movie will be as lucrative as his last film, Bowling for Columbine was, and his last two books Stupid White Men and Dude, Wheres my Country were. I don't have much else to say other than I hope not allowing Miramax to release this film is not really about the power of an angry governor and losing tax breaks. After last weeks controversy over Nightline anchor Ted Koppel reading aloud the names of the fallen soldiers in Iraq, and Sinclair Broadcasting pulling it in some or their markets, it raises more questions about news media consolidation and the power of entertainment corporations and political families. I think Frontline does some of the best work, but how many do you know watch PBS for their news? It would be nice to have a BBC independent media in the US. In Geoffrey Wheatcroft's article in the June 2004 Atlantic, "The Tragedy of Tony Blair", he claims that even after the Hutton report the BBC is trusted 3:1 more than the government. Anyway, my guess is Moore will find a distributor even if the movie isn’t any good (good isn’t the point or the controversy). It will make money for someone.


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