Long-Awaited ‘Fahrenheit 9/11' Opens In Payson

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After a month-long wait, political activists and curious moviegoers alike can finally see Michael Moore's controversial film "Fahrenheit 9/11" in Payson.

While the film was released nationwide on June 25, Payson's Sawmill Theatres did not begin showing the film until Friday.

This delay frustrated several politically active people in the area, including Ed Blair, a member of the Northern Gila County Democratic Party. Blair said he was getting ready to plan a trip to Phoenix to watch the film when he heard the Payson theater would be showing it.

"I've been wanting to see it. I'm so happy it's here," he said.

Registered Democrat Peggy Freeman said she was surprised "Fahrenheit 9/11" made it to Payson.

"We live in a Republican area," she said.

But the film's delay was not for political reasons -- the Sawmill was waiting on the film's distributor to send the movie to Payson, said Brianna Gaskill, Sawmill Theatres' assistant manager.

While the theater often has no problem obtaining big-budget pictures to show early on in their theatrical runs, most film distributors hold off on sending low-budget films, like "Fahrenheit 9/11," to small theaters until they have proven successful in larger markets, Gaskill said.

"With the smaller, low-budget films, it does happen to us a lot," she said.

But the Sawmill persisted in trying to get the movie when theater staff began getting one or two inquiries about the film each day, Gaskill said.

That local interest was evident from the movie's first screening. The theater sold 31 tickets for the 1 p.m. show, about 25 percent of one theater, which is "pretty good" for a Friday afternoon, said Craig Triphahn, manager for Sawmill Theatres.

"We're fully expecting to sell out the evening shows," he added.

Most people who bought tickets for the afternoon shows said they were interested in seeing what issues Moore raised in the film.

Freeman said she was especially interested to see Moore's take on the Bush administration because of the upcoming presidential election.

While Freeman said she realized there was some propaganda in the film, she hoped the movie would influence people to keep an open mind and examine the issues around the election.

"I think everyone, no matter what your political side, should see it," Freeman said.

Pat Ransom, a registered Republican who went to the first screening, agreed with Freeman.

"The race is so close that I want to be open-minded," Ransom said.

And while Ransom said before the movie began that she knew "Fahrenheit 9/11" would be biased, she was interested in seeing some other points of view.

When the credits began rolling, she had not been disappointed.

"I want to buy the thing," Ransom said. "It was very well done."

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