‘9/11’ movie heats up viewers | SteamboatToday.com
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‘9/11’ movie heats up viewers

Kristin Bjornsen

— As the last scene of “Fahrenheit 9/11” faded Tuesday night, applause filled the nearly sold-out Chief Plaza Theater.

The controversial movie opened Friday at the Steamboat Springs movie theater, and by Tuesday, more than 1,000 people had seen it.

“It has been really busy. For a show to sell out on a Monday night is really rare,” Chief Plaza Theater manager Josh Christopherson said.

“Fahrenheit 9/11,” a documentary by Michael Moore, discusses the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act and alleged ties between Saudi Arabia and the Bush family, among other topics. Grossing about $80 million in its first three weeks, the film may become the first documentary to earn more than $100 million.

Some praise the movie as powerful and compelling, while others decry it as a belligerent and unfounded attack on President Bush.

Despite its success at the box office, the movie almost didn’t play at the Chief Plaza Theater. Initially, the theater was unable to book a copy of the film because of the theater’s smaller size, Christopherson said.

“We weren’t supposed to get it, but they were able to squeeze out a few extra prints of the movie. So it was just by luck that we have it,” he said.

In addition to Steamboat moviegoers, people are traveling from Craig and the surrounding region to see it, Chief Plaza Theater employee Sarah Moore said.

“Some people have left crying,” she said.

Audience reaction to the film Tuesday night seemed largely positive. That’s not altogether surprising — one of the criticisms of “Fahrenheit 9/11” is that people who agree with Moore’s politics comprise the vast majority of the audiences for the film.

“Everyone should see it,” said Jorma Nikander, who saw the movie for the first time Tuesday. “I found the fact that Saudi Arabia invests a trillion dollars in the U.S. the most surprising fact. That’s 7 percent of our economy. It helps explain why the administration let the bin Laden family fly out of the U.S. after Sept. 11,” he said.

Stephanie Bontin, another Tuesday-night moviegoer, also thought the movie was informative.

“I don’t see you how can watch the movie without being totally shocked,” she said. “I hope it will open people’s eyes to the dishonesty of our current leadership. It might also open up dialogue.”

The seemingly uniform acclaim at the theater may be due, in part, to dissenters choosing to stay home. Jennifer Schubert-Akin, the secretary of the Routt County Republicans Central Committee, for example, doesn’t plan on seeing “Fahrenheit 9/11.”

“From what I’ve seen in clips and news coverage, Mr. Moore seems like a person so filled with hatred toward George Bush that he’s incapable of being objective,” Schubert-Akin said.

Although she thought it was Moore’s right to make the movie, “Fahrenheit 9/11” could damage the unity of the United States at a critical time, she said.

“From what I’ve heard, it’s really misleading, and it undermines our country. We need everyone together in the war on terrorism. That’s the biggest threat facing us,” Schubert-Akin said.

But it’s not just Republicans who are declining to see the film. Tim Selby, a pastoral associate at United Methodist Church of Steamboat Springs, described himself as fairly liberal and “not a fan of Bush’s policies.” However, he is choosing not to watch the movie because he thinks its approach is divisive.

“I feel like there’s a lot of stuff from both political perspectives designed to enflame negative feelings of one side against the other, to demonize and blame,” Selby said. “It creates a political climate that is negative and shallow.”

From Michael Moore to Rush Limbaugh, Selby said many political pundits play to people’s “lower emotions” rather than “deepening understanding and broadening perspective.” Instead, he wants to hear multiple perspectives that encourage dialogue and debate.

“I don’t have anything against the film, and I’m glad it came to town. Everyone has the freedom to express themselves,” he said. “But people can have real different opinions and still have respect for others.”

Whether “Fahrenheit 9/11” sparks dialogue or simply fuels tempers remains to be seen, but it’s generating a lot of heat in the meantime.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” will play at the Chief Plaza Theater through July 23 but may stay longer if tickets sales remain high.


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