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Are Movies Theaters Afraid to Play Movie that Depicts President Bush's Assassination?

This is a partial transcript from "Hannity & Colmes," October 6, 2006, that has been edited for clarity.

SEAN HANNITY, CO-HOST: The controversial new film, "Death of a President", which depicts a fictional assassination of George W. Bush, is set to open in American theaters on October the 27th. But tonight, several major theater chains are announcing that they will not show the film, including Cinemark USA, the Regal Entertainment Group and the nation's largest movie theater chain.

Joining us now, film writer for Time Out Chicago, who saw the film at the Toronto Film Festival, Bill — I'm sorry, Ben Kenigsburg.

Ben, welcome to the program. Thanks for being with us. I have not had the benefit of seeing the film yet. And I usually prefer to do that. I've only seen the scene.

But putting all that aside, don't you think these theater groups have a right to make their own editorial decisions? Because I do.

BEN KENIGSBURG, TIME OUT CHICAGO: Yes. Absolutely. I believe the theater groups have the right to choose which films they will and will not show.

I find it a tad ironic that Regal and Cinemark are kicking up such a storm about this film, because films of this sort of caliber, of this, rather of this budget — and it's made for British television — don't normally show in multiplexes anyway. In Chicago it's actually showing at an independent movie house, The Music Box.

HANNITY: You know, I guess it comes down to an issue, and I'm assuming that this is part of the reason why they're doing it. A responsibility.

You know, in the day and age of terrorism, in a day and age of very divisive, partisan, heightened political rhetoric, I think they're thinking responsibly here, in that this is the type of thing that you've got to consider whether it would motivate some sick person out there to get involved in some copycat type of crime as a result of seeing that.

It seems responsible to me that they're making that editorial decision.

KENIGSBURG: You know, I think anyone who sees the film and comes out, you know, wanting to assassinate Bush was not watching the film. What's very clear is that it's not a wish fulfillment fantasy. Very early on it makes the point that a Bush assassination would not be good news for anyone.

ALAN COLMES, CO-HOST: Hey, Ben, it's Alan Colmes.

KENIGSBURG: The hype in Toronto — yes.

COLMES: I just want to say, I was reading what you wrote about this. And as you point out, the movie does not advocate assassination. It's not a call to arms. A lot of people, all they know about it is the title, which is shocking. And the idea of an actor with a likeness of President Bush and an assassination, which is shocking. That's all some people know about it.

KENIGSBURG: Well, it's — you know, it uses found footage to create this alternative future. It's set in October 2007.

It strikes a very respectful, serious tone. It's not a film that glorifies an assassination in any way. It's using footage of the president to create this alternative future, to comment on the present, as well. It's a satire, and I think anyone who sees it will come away with that impression very clearly.

COLMES: As I understand, it is satire, and it's about how the Bush administration has used tragedy to manipulate people and fear mongering.

And of course, there are people who are politically not going to like that and political reasons will object. They don't see it that way and probably would view it as un-American to put that out in a time of a war on terror.

KENIGSBURG: I mean, perhaps — I think, you know, unless you object to any film that is critical of Bush and the Bush administration in any way, I think the only thing that's sort of upping the ante here is the assassination, which, as I say, is portrayed in a much more tasteful, assuming — is being portrayed in a tasteful way.

(CROSSTALK)

COLMES: ... politically motivated not to distribute this film?

KENIGSBURG: I would say that it's a film that, you know, it's a film called "Death of a President". It's a film that's very knowingly courting controversy. Certainly, the motivation could be politics.

HANNITY: We've got to run here.

KENIGSBURG: I have no idea how the decision was arrived at.

HANNITY: Ben, did I just hear you say a tasteful assassination?

KENIGSBURG: I would say that it does not glorify the assassination in any way...

HANNITY: Tasteful?

KENIGSBURG: ... and actually shows it as a — it's not tasteful.

HANNITY: All right.

KENIGSBURG: I would say the film is not reveling in Bush's assassination.

HANNITY: All right. We've got to run. Appreciate your time.

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