Cinema chains' boycott of Bush murder film unlikely to harm sales

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The Independent US

Two of America's largest cinema chains have announced they will not show Gabriel Range's mock-documentary Death Of A President, which depicts the assassination of George Bush.

The film caused a sensation at its premiere at the Toronto Film Festival last month and was aired on British television earlier this week. It is scheduled for release in the United States at the end of this month and has been booked into about 100 screens.

None of those screens, though, will be owned by Regal Entertainment Group, the largest chain of cinemas in the US, or by Cinemark USA. Together, the two groups own almost 9,000 screens across the country. "We would not be inclined to programme this film," Regal's chief executive, Mike Campbell, said. "We feel it is inappropriate to portray the future assassination of a sitting president, regardless of political affiliation."

The country's number two exhibitor, AMC Entertainment, has not disclosed what it intends to do with the film. Another big group, National Amusements, says it is still in discussions with the film's distributor.

The boycott, though, is unlikely to do much harm to the commercial prospects of Death of a President. On the contrary, the controversy can only be good for stirring up public interest. And it is not the sort of film to find an audience at big commercial multiplexes in the first place.

Most of the venues that will show the film on 27 October, less than two weeks before the US mid-term elections, are arthouse cinemas. The film is being distributed in the US by Newmarket Films, which specialises in niche markets and made its fortune with Mel Gibson's The Passion of The Christ, at a time when conventional wisdom suggested it would not find a mass audience. It went on to gross £320m.

Death of a President is set in the near future and imagines Mr Bush being murdered following passage of a "Patriot Act" to combat terrorism.