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Summer Indie Counter-Programming
Posted June 18, 2010 to photo album "Summer Indie Counter-Programming"
In anticipation of the release of Lisa Cholodenko’s The Kids Are All Right, Nick Dawson looks back at summer indie hits from years past.
Slide 13: Fahrenheit 9/11
Release Date: June 23, 2004
Domestic Gross: $119,194,771
Programmed Against: White Chicks
The same week in 2004 as the release of Wayans brothers’ broad comedy White Chicks – about two African-American FBI agents who go undercover as white hotel heiresses – another movie with a daring – yet much more serious – premise also opened. Two years earlier, Michael Moore had triumphed with his film Bowling for Columbine, which not only won the Best Documentary Feature award at the Oscars but broke the U.S. box office record for the highest grossing documentary ever. In Moore’s Oscar acceptance speech, he’d decried then-President George W. Bush for his “fictional war” in Iraq, and this became the subject he explored in his follow-up film, Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore brought his brash, irreverent brand of populist investigative filmmaking to bear with this examination of Bush’s presidency and the “War on Terror” – a subject that could not have been more prescient considering the U.S. had been invaded Iraq only 15 months earlier. After winning the Palme D’Or at Cannes in May, Moore’s movie was released in June and in a single weekend smashed the box office record set by Columbine. Ultimately, Fahrenheit 9/11 out-grossed Columbine six times over and radically redefined how financially successful a non-fiction film could be. As in so many cases, a savvy marketing campaign was a big factor in the big box office numbers, most notably an inspired poster featuring Moore and Bush smiling and holding hands on the White House lawn below the slogan “Controversy…What Controversy?” And, fo the record, Fahrenheit 9/11 earned $50 million more than White Chicks domestically.