Unless you've been hiding out in a Maury County forest for the past several days, you've heard that Michael Moore's new documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 grossed $21.8 million last weekend, surpassing industry expectations and shattering box-office records for documentaries. Nashville's Regal Green Hills 16, the only theater in town showing the round rabble-rouser's latest project, was no exception to the national trend.
Indeed, rumor has it CNN did a live shot from outside our local movie house. What they found there were long lines of angry liberals, including both those who loathe the Bush administration and those who simply didn't think to pre-purchase tickets. There was a police presence (reportedly in response to threats from the rabid right wing). And there were tight-lipped Regal employees who, sources unaffiliated with the theater chain tell the Scene, received a memo specifically instructing them not to talk to patrons about Fahrenheit.
So what do Nashville's chattering classes have to say about the new flick? The Scene contacted some local opinion leaderswell, as many as we could reach on a Tuesday afternoonto find out. And the answer, apparently, is not much.
Vanderbilt PR guy Mike Schoenfeldwho most folks wouldn't describe as a flag-burning liberalsays he hasn't seen the movie but is thinking about "playing hooky" one day to catch a screening. As a paid spinmeister himself, Schoenfeld says he "admire[s] good propaganda regardless of where it comes from."
Not Ryan Loskarn, press secretary to U.S. Congressman (her word choice) Marsha Blackburn, who only admires good propaganda when it comes from his boss. "Marsha has not seen it, and I think it's safe to say she won't," he says. Come onno office field trip? "If anyone did, I hope they would wear a hat and sunglasses."
Well who's been seeing this movie, anyway? Certainly local union boss Don Driscoll, always good for a leftist rant or two, has seen it by now. "I haven't had time, and tickets are hard to come by," he sheepishly offers, to the Scene's great disappointment. But in the end, Don comes through for us: "People ought to see The Battle of Algiers firstHave you seen that by the way?because it's just a shame this administration didn't see it before sending our boys and girls into harm's way."
Perhaps WSMV's Demetria Kalodimos, one of about six full-time employees at Channel 4 (the rest are temps) and an acclaimed documentary filmmaker in her spare time, stopped by Green Hills to see the film. "I haven't been able to get a ticket," she confesses. "I'll see anything by an Academy Award-winning director.... There's no doubt [Moore] has taken the art form to a new level, and you've gotta go and see why." As for using star power to get in the door, Demetria says that doesn't work either. "I know Dan [Miller] stood in line and couldn't get a ticket."
OK, we give up. None of Nashville's opinion shapersthe vaunted liberal elitehave seen Fahrenheit 9/11. (Perhaps that's because The Tennessean didn't splash it all over the front page, as they did for the debut of The Passion of the Christ.) But someone's been packing that theater a few times a day. Could it be the lowly proles?
Speaking of the common proletariat, their self-appointed spokesman is talk radio's Steve Gill, a populist agitator who may have more in common with Moore than he cares to admit. At least he might have caught a screening so he could tear it apart live on the air? Afraid not. "And if I do see it," he told us, "I'll probably buy a ticket to another movie and go in so Moore doesn't get the financial remuneration." Pretty sneaky, Steve.
Michael would be proud.
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