- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 13, 2009

At screenings of “The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3” in cities across the country, moviegoers were stunned to see not the faces of the film’s stars Denzel Washington and John Travolta on the big screen, but that of Michael Moore.

Promoting his still-untitled documentary on the financial crisis and the banking sector meltdown, Mr. Moore appeared in a teaser trailer asking audience members to remember some of the victims of the ailing economy: the banks and their CEOs.

“Instead of using this time to tell you about my new movie, I’d like to take a moment and ask you to join me in helping our fellow Americans,” he said. “Reach into your pockets right now and lend a hand. Ushers will be coming down the aisles to collect donations for Citibank, Bank of American, AIG, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan, and a host of other needy banks and corporations.”

With that, 12 ushers clad in white T-shirts emblazoned with the phrase “Save our CEOs” marched up the theater steps and tried to collect donations.

Bemused audience members sat on their hands when the donation jars were presented.

The stunt — which occurred Friday evening at theaters in Washington, New York City, Chicago and Los Angeles — was the opening salvo in the marketing campaign for Michael Moore’s new documentary, currently scheduled to open Oct. 2 in theaters nationwide.

Mr. Moore is one of the most well-known — not to mention controversial — documentarians in the country.

His “Fahrenheit 9/11,” about the Bush administration’s response to the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, remains the highest grossing documentary to date. “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), which he also directed, comes in sixth.

But Mr. Moore’s latest film, “Sicko,” was considered a minor disappointment, despite grossing $24.5 million (the fifth highest take of all time for a documentary). He and his partners, Overture Films and Paramount Vantage, hope that his new target and public dissatisfaction with the amount of money streaming from the government to the banks will elicit a strong reaction from the public.

Mr. Moore may have found a way to double his audience by attacking his first bipartisan target. Though famous for going after conservatives in his previous films, public opinion polling has shown consistent bipartisan wariness for the bailout of the nation’s banking industry.

A CBS/New York Times poll in late February found that 50 percent of Americans were opposed to giving more money to banks and financial institutions, while 68 percent opposed giving more money to auto companies.

“I know what you’re thinking,” his trailer concluded. “I already gave at the bailout. And I know you did. But even if you’ve given in the past, give some more. It’ll make you feel good.”

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