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Moore sets sights on multiplexes

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PARK CITY -- Michael Moore is mad as hell about documentaries and foreign films being crowded out of theaters, and he's not going to take it anymore.

"My new year's resolution is to sit down with the heads of exhibition chains and have them devote one screen in their multiplexes to nonfiction and foreign films," Moore said. He said he's spoken with fellow documentary directors to join him in the initiative, including board members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences' documentary branch, though it is unclear if AMPAS would be officially involved.

The director of four of the 12 top-grossing docus of all time -- "Fahrenheit 9/11," "Roger & Me," the Oscar-winning "Bowling for Columbine" and the just-announced Oscar nominee "Sicko" -- wants to use his influence with exhibitors to make this happen. "If not me, then who?" he said. "I'm the one who got through the door."

Moore's motivation is the declining boxoffice performance of indie films last year, in which many were taken out of theaters before they had a chance to grow word-of-mouth business. He said it's an extension of his work promoting fellow indie filmmakers at his annual Traverse City Film Festival.

"People want to see documentaries, but there's a disconnect between that desire and the exhibitors out there," added Moore, who has been planning the initiative for several months. "We're not asking for charity," he said.

"This could be on the 15th screen of a multiplex that would otherwise have the sixth showing of the new "Harry Potter" movie. Some of these films make $200 or $300 per screen."

Moore said he's also spoken with marketers and publicists around the country who have agreed to donate their time to publicizing the campaign. He hopes to break these films out of "the art house ghetto" by having them play in suburban theaters throughout Middle America where they aren't often shown.

The director said it's possible that the initiative may begin with exhibitors devoting one night a week (likely the traditionally weak Monday) to these films instead of one screen per multiplex. Moore plans to announce details of the initiative at a news conference timed around the Oscars, with at least one exhibitor involved.