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Moore's `Sicko' is hit by Web pirates

June 16, 2007|John Horn and Sheigh Crabtree | Special to The Times

Movie pirates are flooding the Web with bootlegged copies of "Sicko" two weeks before the Michael Moore healthcare documentary is due in theaters.

The renegade filmmaker, whose previous targets have included General Motors in "Roger & Me" and the Bush administration in "Fahrenheit 9/11," Moore's incendiary view of the Iraq war, now finds himself the target of renegades who are widely sharing copies of his film.

Weinstein Co. spokeswoman Sarah Rothman said in a statement: "We are responding aggressively to protect our film ... but from our research it is clear that people interested in the [healthcare] movement are excited to go to the theater so they can be part of the experience and fight to reform healthcare."

Dan Glickman, chief executive of the Motion Picture Assn. of America, said, "Unfortunately, in pre-release, movies find their way onto the Internet, and it's harmful to the industry. But the U.S. Congress has worked hard to pass an initiative to make movie piracy a criminal offense."

Glickman plans to see "Sicko" next week at a Washington screening for politicos.

Some have found a certain irony in any protest from Moore's camp. The filmmaker has been vocal in his support of downloading pirated movies as long as pirates do not profit.

As to whether the pirating of "Sicko" took the studio by surprise, Rothman said, "Healthcare impacts everybody right in their homes, and it is not surprising that people are eager to see 'Sicko.' "

Although Weinstein Co. may be encouraged by the early interest in and pirating of "Sicko," the National Assn. of Theater Owners reacted less enthusiastically.

"The vast majority of movie theft incidents [over 90%] don't occur until wide theatrical release happens," association President John Fithian said. "Studios, theater operators and all our industry allies make extensive efforts to prevent movie theft, or at least postpone it as long as possible."

U.S. theaters faced $670 million in lost revenue last year because of movie theft, according to a study by the association.

Moore's documentary not only details the shortcomings of the U.S. health insurance system -- which leaves tens of millions without coverage -- but also holds up socialized medicine as an attainable option.

"Sicko" is scheduled for theatrical release June 29.


Horn is a Times staff writer and Crabtree is a Times correspondent.

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