October 6, 2004 5:10 PM PDT
'Fahrenheit' vs. 'Fahrenhype'
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The Web merchant is promoting the DVD release of the most commercially successful documentary ever right alongside a relatively unknown one called "Fahrenhype 9/11," which Overstock describes as "a new documentary that challenges the assertions of Michael Moore in his highly publicized film."
Overstock is featuring a side-by-side promotion of each film on its front page, framed by text that reads: "Where do you stand?" and a link to the online movie trailer for "Fahrenhype." The Overstock site also touted itself as the exclusive online distributor of the DVD, which is also available at some Blockbuster and Hollywood Video stores.
The anti-Moore film features interviews with Fox News Channel commentator Dick Morris and three speakers from last month's Republican National Convention--actor Ron Silver, former New York mayor Ed Koch and Georgia Sen. Zell Miller. The film, which its makers insist is nonpartisan, has not received much play in theaters.
By contrast, Moore's film, which is critical of the Bush administration and its drive to wage a war in Iraq, is an award-winning documentary and the first to top the $100 million mark at theater box offices.
Then why is Overstock giving the DVDs equal play on its site and linking them so closely? Overstock spokesman Scott Blevins said the company viewed it as an opportunity to support a hometown filmmaker. Both Overstock and "Fahrenhype" producer Jeff Hays are based in Salt Lake City.
"We were in a position to use our direct-market reach to put the films into peoples' homes immediately--bypassing the delay of the conventional retail logistics system," Blevins said in an e-mail. Blevins is also a spokesman for "Fahrenhype."
Overstock's exclusive deal with the producers of "Fahrenhype" has nothing to do with Patrick Byrne, the company's chief executive officer, and his ties to the Republican Party, Blevins said. Byrne recently donated $75,000 to Utah Republican gubernatorial candidate Jon Huntsman Jr., more than any other nonfamily donor. Blevins said Byrne has also donated to the Democratic Party.
"We offer both films side by side," Blevins said. "That seems like a fair-minded thing to do."
Neither Michael Moore nor his staff responded to e-mail inquiries about the Overstock promotion.
The success of Moore's film at the box office has spawned numerous documentaries from filmmakers on both sides of the political spectrum. Other new titles bashing Moore or praising President Bush include "Michael Moore Hates America," "George W. Bush: Faith in the White House," and "Celsius 41.11," which premiered last week in Washington and refers to "the temperature at which the brain begins to die."
Left-leaning documentarians are also on a roll with the release of "Outfoxed--Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism," "The Hunting of the President--The Ten-Year Campaign to Destroy Bill Clinton," and "Brothers in Arms," which spotlights Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry's military service in Vietnam.
Moore's "Fahrenheit" appears to be carrying the success of its theatrical release over to DVD. It's been the top-selling DVD on Amazon.com since its release on Tuesday, outpacing the DVD debut of Walt Disney's "Aladdin." It's also been a top seller at BestBuy.com and online retailer CD Universe, according to representatives of each company.
The "Fahrenheit" DVD includes a lot of extra content, such as a featurette on the release and support of the film, deleted scenes, a George Bush press briefing after appearing before the 9/11 Commission and more.
"There is definitely a lot of interest out there around it," said Best Buy spokesman Brian Lucas. "We think it's going to have some legs; it's going to be a big seller for a while."
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