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A big little opening for 'Fahrenheit'

June 24, 2004|Elizabeth Jensen | Times Staff Writer

NEW YORK — Michael Moore's anti-Bush administration documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" quickly sold out multiple shows by midday Wednesday at the two theaters where it opened in the reliably liberal stronghold of Manhattan. Crowds of the faithful or curious predictably flocked to the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas on the Upper West Side and the Loews Cineplex Village VII in the East Village, but the movie's real test will come when it moves beyond New York City. It opens nationwide Friday in more than 850 theaters.

The early birds at Lincoln Plaza included a diverse group of retirees, ABC News interns, Moore fanatics, people who said they had avidly followed the controversy over who would release the film and members of MoveOn.org, the liberal activist group that had urged members to show up for the movie. Mitchell and Donna Harrison of Evanston, Ill., took two hours out of their vacation. "I couldn't wait 10 days to see this movie," said Donna Harrison, 49, a lactation consultant.

Laurence McPhail, 28, a bodyguard from Brooklyn, said the trailer had caught his attention and he wanted to see the film "before the president comes and pulls it out of the theaters." A former Air Force staff sergeant who served in Kosovo, with a bullet scar on his leg to show for it, McPhail said many of his friends had been killed in Iraq. "I came for the politics," he said, criticizing the president "because he acts first before he thinks."

Kay Lorraine, 57, a freelance film producer from Honolulu, convinced her friend Jessica Josell to attend the first screening. "There's no telling when provincial Hawaii may get this," she said. Josell, 61, a public relations executive, said prior to seeing it she had issues with Moore's style and occasional use of the "cheap shot." But afterward, she deemed it "powerfully persuasive," adding, "I can't believe that anyone who sees this won't be moved." Lorraine proclaimed it "brilliant."

Graphic designer Erech Swanston, 36, said he didn't learn anything new but praised Moore for "taking all the footage and weaving it into a story."

He found the audience distracting: "It does no good to hiss at Bush every time he comes on screen." He said he would prefer people direct that energy to the political process.

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