Just One Month Before Planned Release, "Fahrenheit" Distribution Deal Anticipated
by Eugene Hernandez
The fate of Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11," winner of the Palme d'Or in Cannes last month, is now firmly in the hands of Harvey and Bob Weinstein with just one month to go before the film's intended release date. The brothers closed a deal with Miramax's parent company Disney last week, giving them the rights to the movie and clearing the way for a theatrical release of the movie on July 2nd as Moore had intended, and ending nearly a month of drama following the news that Disney would not allow its specialty division to release the film.
All eyes remain on a trio of distributors, with Lions Gate, Focus Features, and Newmarket understood to be the leading contenders to release the film in the United States. Those are the same three companies that Moore cited as leading contenders during a conversation with indieWIRE in Cannes. The Weinsteins would no doubt work closely with the distribution company on the release. Would-be buyers are said to have signed a non-disclosure agreement and the heads of Lions Gate, Focus and Newmarket all declined comment on the matter. A deal for the U.S. release of the film could come early this week, according to insiders.
Miramax has turned to Lions Gate in the past, for help in releasing "Dogma" and "O" when Disney denied Miramax the opportunity to distribute those movies. Moore noted during the Cannes lunch that Lions Gate Films chief executive John Feltheimer, the former head of TV at Sony Pictures Entertainment, worked with him on the Sony series "TV Nation." Moore also acknowledged his great respect for Bob Berney's work at Newmarket and James Schamus at Focus.
In a joint statement issued late Friday, Miramax and Disney said that the Weinsteins had acquired all rights to the movie through a new "special-purpose company" dubbed The Fellowship Adventure Group. They paid Miramax for all of its costs on the film so far, estimated at about $6 million. The statement said that the Weinstein's would be responsible for any costs incurred in the finishing of the movie, as well as marketing costs not covered by the film's distributors.
"Under the agreement, the Weinsteins will arrange for worldwide distribution for the film in all windows, including theatrical and home entertainment," read the statement. "The Weinsteins will secure distribution through third parties or may distribute the movie personally in certain markets."
Michael Moore was uncharacteristically quiet in reacting to the announcement Friday. He issued a short statement via Miramax, saying simply, "It is a fair and equitable solution."
Paris-based sales agent Wild Bunch continues to handle international deals for "Fahrenheit 9/11." Any monetary benefits to Miramax or Disney from the release of the movie will be donated to charity according to Friday's statement.