After a presentation in Cannes, potential distributors were left with more questions than answers.
Michael Moore and Harvey Weinstein unveiled footage from Fahrenheit 11/9 at a buyers-only presentation Friday evening at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes.
But after the two-hour presentation — with Weinstein and brother Bob on hand and Moore appearing via Skype — potential distributors were left with more questions than answers.
Targeted distributors say they expect that the film will be released on Nov. 9, marking the one-year anniversary of the morning Donald Trump was pronounced president-elect. But that means 11/9 will face off at the box office against an equally splashy Lena Dunham-helmed Trump doc titled 11/8/16. Sources say that film, which also features such directors as David Lowery and Eugene Jarecki, will be released by The Orchard one day before on Nov. 8.
Dunham is expected to have plenty of compelling footage for 11/8/16, given that she was embedded at Hillary Clinton headquarters in New York on election night. Moore’s angle is a takedown exposé.
Nearly every buyer The Hollywood Reporter polled skipped the Martinez presentation, an ominous sign for the film’s market potential (the press was disinvited at the last minute). Hamish Moseley, head of distribution at Altitude, which distributed Amy in the U.K., said he couldn’t make it but added, “You can’t ignore Michael Moore.” Dogwoof, one of the premiere doc distributors in the territory, didn’t even know about it.
Moore’s last documentary, Michael Moore in TrumpLand, did not get theatrical distribution internationally, going out as a TV premiere in most territories. Fahrenheit 11/9 could see a similar rollout, especially given the fast-moving nature of the Trump narrative. One major European TV buyer said he was interested in the film, but only if he could get it out quickly and not have to wait for the typical broadcast “window,” which, in Europe, can be up to three years. “By then, there’ll be no interest in it. Trump will be either gone or onto a second term,” said the buyer.
What is currently unclear is who will distribute 11/9 domestically. Though the Weinsteins acquired worldwide rights, they are expected to try to sell off U.S. distribution rights while here at Cannes. Still, the documentary also could go out via The Weinstein Co. A TWC source says that scenario “is certainly still an option.”
Another challenge facing the Moore doc is his own ubiquity. He also has a one-man Broadway show in the works. And hours after 11/9 was announced on May 16, TNT said Moore will host and direct the docuseries Live From the Apocalypse, which promises to “bring the filmmaker’s signature perspective to contemporary political and social issues.” Presumably, that project, scheduled to premiere in the fall, would overlap with 11/9 contentwise.
But holding back 11/9 for a year to coincide with the two-year anniversary also has its drawbacks. Namely, Moore’s doc would have no influence on the midterm elections in November 2018, seen as crucial to the Democratic Party. Then again, Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11 didn’t sway voters to opt for John Kerry over George W. Bush in 2004, despite being the highest-grossing documentary of all time with $222 million worldwide and a Palme d’Or win to boot.
Scott Roxborough and Alex Ritman contributed to this report.