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Michael Moore's offering a freebie

The filmmaker will release his latest documentary, the political saga 'Slacker Uprising,' online for three weeks at no cost.

September 05, 2008|Jake Coyle | Associated Press

NEW YORK -- Inspired by Neil Young and Radiohead, Michael Moore will release his new film online and for free.

The film, "Slacker Uprising," follows Moore's 62-city tour during the 2004 election to rally young voters. It will be available for three weeks as a free download to North American residents beginning Sept. 23. An official announcement of the film is planned for today.

Moore said he considered releasing "Slacker Uprising" theatrically as "Michael Moore's big election-year movie," as he did with 2004's "Fahrenheit 9/11," which was highly critical of President George W. Bush.

Instead, Moore opted for a symbol of gratitude to his fans as he approaches the 20th anniversary of his first film, 1989's "Roger & Me."

"I thought it'd be a nice way to celebrate my 20th year of doing this," Moore said. "And also to help get out the vote for November. I've been thinking about what I want to do to help with the election this year."

The 97-minute-long "Slacker Uprising" will be the first major film to be released in such a way. Last December, "Jackass 2.5" was streamed online and for free, but that was only a collection of leftover material from "Jackass 2." Companies such as ClickStar, which Morgan Freeman co-founded, have made films still in theaters -- such as 2006's "10 Items or Less" -- digitally available for purchase or rental.

Experimentation in distribution has been more common in the music industry, where the Internet has upended traditional business models. Moore took notice when Radiohead last year released its seventh album, "In Rainbows," online with optional pricing. In 2006, Neil Young streamed his anti-war album "Living With War" for free before its standard release -- now a more common practice.

If history is any measure, "Slacker Uprising" could have made a decent sum in theaters. His last two films, "Sicko" ($24 million) and "Fahrenheit 9/11" ($119 million), are two of the three highest-grossing documentaries ever.

Moore said "Slacker Uprising" cost about $2 million to make and that he will end up paying about $1 million out of his pocket. Neither he nor the distributor, Brave New Films, expect to profit from the film.

The director's last film, "Sicko," leaked online and was downloaded illegally in large numbers. He says this download, offered by BlipTV, will be high-resolution and far better than "YouTube quality."

To receive the download, people can sign up at Slacker Uprising.com. A DVD will be released Oct. 7.

Moore last week released a paperback book, "Mike's Election Guide 2008," and is working on a movie for theatrical release next year.

For now, Moore hopes "Slacker Uprising" will help spur young people to vote this November. After more than 20 million 18-to-29-year-olds cast ballots in 2004 (an 11% increase from 2000), he's hoping even greater numbers of "slackers" vote this year.

Moore readily acknowleges this is a film for Democrats.

"This film really isn't for anybody other than the choir," said Moore. "But that's because I believe the choir needs a song to sing every now and then."

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