Published June 01, 2004
Something funny may tie together Michael Moore's "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "The Lord of the Rings." And the joke may be on Disney.
As I predicted on Friday, it looks like the controversial "Fahrenheit 9/11" will most likely be distributed by a consortium of film companies rather than just one.
Lions Gate, Newmarket and Universal Focus are the primary participants who would handle U.S. distribution of this hot, hot documentary. The film is already slated for openings around the world and should open around this country on Friday, July 2.
My guess is there were clues to all of this in a press release and wire service report issued late on Friday. That report said that Disney had sold "Fahrenheit 9/11" to Bob and Harvey Weinstein of Miramax for $6 million.
The Weinstein brothers, according to the reports, had set up their own new company to handle the purchase. It is called The Fellowship.
As Homer Simpson would say: "D'oh!" The Fellowship is certainly an interesting choice of names. For one thing, it indicates there will be a fellowship of film companies dealing with "Fahrenheit."
But The Fellowship is no doubt a nice little dig at Disney for not allowing Miramax to make "The Lord of the Rings" into a trilogy of films when they had the rights. Disney, in fact, would only authorize one, not three, movies to be made. This resulted in the project moving to New Line, the Weinsteins getting executive producer credit, and Miramax losing out on having, consecutively, three of the biggest hits in motion picture history, not to mention the 2003 Best Picture of the Year at the Academy Awards.
This is pretty clever, if true, and I have no doubt that it is. I guess Michael Eisner would be Gollum in this scenario. The Weinsteins would be Frodo and Sam.
Moore's last film, "Bowling for Columbine," made for peanuts, grossed about $58 million worldwide at the box office for its savvy distributor, United Artists/MGM. That's not counting video sales and rentals. "Fahrenheit 9/11," with known costs of $6 million, should do as well or better, making it a sure bet for The Fellowship as it searches for the gold ring.
An 18-year-old named Daniel Kapon says Michael Jackson abused him from the time he was 3 years old to age 9. Kapon sold his story to the United Kingdom's reliably funny News of the World newspaper and it appeared over the weekend.
The bad news for all of them is that Santa Barbara District Attorney Tom Sneddon doesn't seem to be taking any of this seriously, which is exactly right.
Kapon lives in Encino, Calif., where Jackson also lived with his parents until the mid 1980s. On a Web site set up by his Woodland Hills high school friends, it's noted that Kapon is a member of something called the "Messed Up Friends Club." His position in the club is "Head Lyncher," described thusly by Simone, the Web master of the site: "He hates me, the webpage designer, more than he hates everybody else." Kapon's 2002 school paper on "Oedipus Rex," can be found on the Internet.
Kapon is represented by Jackson critic Gloria Allred, and was — according to reports — or is — a patient of Carole Lieberman, the Los Angeles shrink who worked on Randy Taraborelli's tabloid biography of Jackson and was the person who filed complaints against Jackson for his baby-dangling incident.
Meanwhile, last week, Larry Feldman, the Los Angeles attorney who secured a $20 million settlement against Jackson for a 13-year-old boy in 1993, filed a promise to sue Los Angeles County for his latest clients, the family of the 14-year-old boy who is the plaintiff in the only other Jackson case in a decade.
Strangely enough, it's always the same professionals from previous Jackson scandals who discover the new ones. They must have a sixth sense for sniffing out Michael Jackson mishegos. No other lawyers or psychiatrists seem to have the same abilities.
The Sunday Styles section of the New York Times may be eating BlackBerry pie this week instead of crow.
The front-page feature of Sunday's section was a long endorsement of the BlackBerry text messaging pager called "A BlackBerry Throbs, and a Wonk Has a Date." The word BlackBerry appeared at least 25 times in the story, not counting headlines, captions and plurals ("BlackBerries").
The piece, by Jennifer 8. Lee (yes, you read that right), was so slavish to this one particular device that it mentioned not one of BlackBerry's competitors such as the similar and easier to use T-Mobile Sidekick, a device used by a lot of celebrities such as Sean "P. Diddy Combs," or any of the popular text messagers sold by Nokia, Motorola, or Samsung.
The feature was a piece of genius PR in that it offered the oldest promise in the world: You'll get a date if you use the BlackBerry. Evidence of this was presented in the form of Trip Donnelly, a young Washington, D.C., man who, according to the story, is a skirt-chasing fool because of his BlackBerry. And surprise! Donnelly works for a company, Lee does mention in passing, called InPhonic, which, she states, used to distribute the BlackBerry but no longer does.
Uh, not so fast.
According to published reports, InPhonic purchased a company called GadgetSpace Inc. in 2001 for $10 million in stock. GadgetSpace — on a Web site copyrighted in 2002 to InPhonic — sells two BlackBerry models, which Donnelly is very much involved in marketing to customers: the RIM 857 and 850. (RIM stands for Research in Motion, the company that makes the BlackBerry.)
Internetnews.com wrote in its announcement of the InPhonic-GadgetSpace deal that "the Cary, N.C.-based GadgetSpace develops software and services that extend large-scale corporate applications to wireless devices such as mobile phones and handheld computers like the RIM BlackBerry wireless e-mail device, the Palm and the PocketPC."
It's clear from its Web site and other promotional materials that InPhonic is very involved in selling and promoting the technology that makes it work. Under "Solutions" to a health care question on its Web site:
"Using services available through InPhonic's Data Mobilization offering, the application was able to support access from all types of Web-enabled devices (Internet-enabled cell phones and RIM BlackBerry, Palm OS and Pocket PC devices). The entire project took less than 10 weeks to complete and allowed the organization to drive down costs and increase sales."
What's really going on here? The answer is: who knows? Is it just a coincidence that a product has not only been featured, but the main character in the story works for a company that promotes and sells the product? Will BlackBerry soon be a big print advertiser in the New York Times? Maybe someone will send us a text message so we can find out — on a SideKick, preferably.