LOS ANGELES - Film director Michael Moore's anti-Bush documentary "Fahrenheit 9/11" will hit US theatres on June 25 after backers Bob and Harvey Weinstein struck distribution deals for the controversial, Cannes festival award-winning film, the parties said on Tuesday.
Lions Gate Entertainment Corp. and IFC Films, major players in the arena for independent movies, will release Moore's movie to theatres, and cable television network Showtime will handle the sale of rights for pay-TV.
"Fahrenheit 9/11" caused a firestorm of publicity in May after the Walt Disney Co. refused to allow its Miramax Films unit, which is run by the Weinstein brothers, to release the movie to theatres claiming it was too politically charged.
"Fahrenheit 9/11," which won the coveted Palm d'Or, the top prize at last month's prestigious Cannes film festival, looks at America's reaction to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
And it attempts to link President Bush and his family to powerful Saudis, including the family of Osama bin Laden.
"I think, for a large segment of the population, it is going to be a must-see film," said Jon Feltheimer, Lions Gate chief executive. "Forget the controversy, if you look at the body of Michael Moore's work.
It's really good filmmaking."
IFC Entertainment President Jonathan Sehring echoed much of Feltheimer's sentiment and said his company has a mission of being a place where independent filmmakers can come to get their voices heard by a wide audience.
"This film will cause debate, but that is also what this country is founded on," Sehring said.
Moore won the US film industry's top honour, the Oscar, for 2002 documentary "Bowling for Columbine" about gun use, and at the ceremony that is watched by millions of television viewers he launched into a speech against the war in Iraq.
He has said he is no fan of President Bush and wanted "Fahrenheit 9/11" to be released ahead of the November presidential election so that it might influence the outcome.
"Everybody knows who I am and where I stand. Oh no, I'm not trying to pretend I'm being even-handed with Bush," he told Reuters in May when the controversy erupted.
In a statement announcing the distribution deal, Moore seemed to take a swipe at Disney, thanking Lions Gate and IFC for "bringing good family entertainment" to audiences.
Neither the Weinsteins nor Moore were available to comment, a spokesman said.
Last week the Weinsteins cut a deal with Disney to buy back the film rights for the cost of the film, estimated at $6 million.
Sources near the early dealmaking said the Weinsteins were seeking agreements under which they retained ownership of the film and the distribution partners helped fund film prints and marketing then shared in box office receipts.
Both Feltheimer and Sehring declined to comment on the financial details.
The new distribution partners did say that they already had significant interest from theatre chains wanting to show the film and who were not shying away from the controversy.
Sehring said they had originally wanted to release "Fahrenheit 9/11" on July 2 in about 500 theatres, but moved it up on the calendar. He said the number of theatres showing it had yet to be determined.