IFC Turns Up the 'Fahrenheit’ With Moore Film

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A pair of documentaries that won laurels at the Cannes Film Festival should further boost Independent Film Channel’s standing within the independent film community.

Last week, IFC Films, the network’s sister company, and Lions Gate Films agreed to distribute Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 — the documentary dropped by The Walt Disney Co. and winner of the Palme d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival — in U.S. theaters.

Back in May, IFC’s Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession became the first cable-commissioned film to garner “Official Selection, Out of Competition” status at the esteemed festival. Both films will eventually air on the 32 million-home IFC.

JUNE 25 DEBUT

Fellowship Adventure Group — an ad hoc company established by Harvey and Bob Weinstein after Disney refused to let the Weinsteins’ Miramax Film Corp. distribute Moore’s film — signed on with IFC and Lions Gate. The documentary is highly critical of President Bush, and is expected to be an art house box-office hit.

Fahrenheit 9/11 will reach theaters nationwide June 25, the companies said.

Rainbow Media Entertainment Services president Kathy Dore said the film should be on 1,000 screens within a couple of weeks of its release.

“The exciting part for all of us is that the film gets into the theaters before November,” she said. “We feel strongly that Fahrenheit 9/11 will do what all great independent films do: stir great debate in the marketplace.”

As distributors, IFC and Lions Gate will both receive a share of the film’s theatrical revenue, which could be substantial. Dore said Fahrenheit certainly could exceed Moore’s Bowling for Columbine as the highest-grossing documentary film ever. That Oscar-winning film generated $21 million at the box office.

The distribution deal does not guarantee the film a place on IFC’s air, but Dore believes it will end up on the network.

“We don’t buy in the first pay window,” she said. “I’m very confident the film will come to IFC.”

Showtime Networks Inc., Lions Gate’s partner, has secured premium TV rights.

As for Z Channel: A Magnificent Obsession, the film tracks Z Channel, which launched in Los Angeles in 1974 as one of the nation’s first pay channels.

Z HISTORY

Z Channel’s prominence was solidified in 1980, when maverick programmer Jerry Harvey took over as head of programming. His programming showcased a combination of classic, international, independent and Hollywood films, and the network was the first to develop programming innovations such as “director’s cuts” and uniquely themed on-air festivals.

“Having been in the cable industry, we certainly knew the history of Z Channel and felt the story was really compelling,” Dore said, noting the film will air at IFC at some later point, as it could be eligible for other awards.

Dore said the films exemplify IFC’s overall mission.

“When we started the network 10 years ago, we believed it could make a difference in the independent film community — to give independent film a voice beyond New York and Los Angeles,” she said. “In very different ways, these films solidify IFC’s position as a national voice for that community and we believe both will attract new and larger audiences to the network.”

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