“Freedom to Fascism” Pulled From Dallas Theater

With bated breath, I have waited for Aaron Russo’s movie to come back to Dallas. The Angelika screened America: Freedom to Fascism several months ago. I was unable to obtain a ticket but have been watching the trailers posted across the Web. The movie was scheduled to open this weekend, again at the Dallas Angelika, but I could not view showtimes on the Angelika site. A quick phone call provided information that the film had been pulled by its distributor. There are no Dallas dates shown on the movie site, so I am wondering what happened. Do any of you guys know? In the meantime, I will breathe- blue is not a good color for me.

Update by Stephen VanDyke: Politics and tech journalist Declan McCullagh has had his review up for a little while now. He’s far more gracious than the Onion AV Club, but still hints the direction of the film veers well into conspiracy territory and could use some better editing:

The problem, though, is that “America” never manages to do what a compelling documentary must accomplish: state a thesis and adequately defend it. More than half the movie is spent lauding the tax protest movement, including Russo’s sometimes-entertaining efforts to get the IRS to answer his questions–but then the focus abruptly shifts to RFID, NSA surveillance, national ID, President George H.W. Bush’s “new world order” speech and so on. Plus, the movie’s length is too much; Russo badly needs an editor.

Over at Third Party Watch, Cassidy tells us that even with such a limited opening, it’s playing to decent sized crowds but getting overwhelming bad reviews (11/14 reviews are splats according to Rotten Tomatoes).

  1. There were two Tampa, Fla locations listed as having an opening date of July 28th. I’ve now looked both theaters up online and neither one of them is listing Russo’s movie as playing (Fri. Aug. 4th). Were they simply having one screening on July 28th? I was under the impression that the movie would play a while.

  2. Told ya. This movie is not going to be showed nationwide in any significant distribution. Somethings will happen at the last minute. This is just the first example.

  3. I saw AFTF in NYC on 7/28. It was terrific. I too, thought it was not going to make it to the screens here, but it did.

    Unfortunately, it is being shown in only two multiplexes in the entire city! Therefore, I do not believe it will get the sufficient recognition or media attention it deserves.

    Suprisingly enough, The New York Times did not pan it, just merely damned it with faint praise.

  4. It’s not just in Dallas, Michelle.

    I’m across the bridge from Carl in Clearwater, FL. I just told my wife a couple of days ago that we needed to go see it during the week, before some strange thing happened and it got pulled. AMC Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar showed it playing as of Tuesday. Now it’s gone.

    Just another in a long line of anti-freedom coincidences, I guess.

  5. AFTF came out on one screen at the only AMC in Austin,TX. One of the shows last friday sold out. I just checked and it looks like it is not longer here either. When I went to the late show on 7/28, one of the managers came in to say taht they only had the one DVD to show at the time and would be getting film stock to put it on a second screen later and would be showing it for a couple of weeks. This really stinks.

  6. I think the major problem was NOT malice… but just lack of proper advertising funds. The movie really needed some cash to get the word out, and that never happened.

    It didn’t really “rock the box offices” because lack of marketing = lack of venues they will be willing to try.

    I’d be willing to hear other theories… but I think this is just good ole fashion “poor execution” in the market.

  7. I asked cinemalibre and here is their response:

    “I’m really not sure exactly. I’m guessing we didn’t have enough money (or actually Aaron didn’t) and we aren’t positive about how well the film is going to do, which is why there are only a few cities. But the next wave of premieres (in undetermined cities) will start in September.”

  8. Rob – good point… considering they were only in 10 theatres I think they had an excellent premier!

  9. Mike, from what I have been able to determine from other web sites (and I’ll try to find the schedule) the film was to travel the U.S. in the same manner. I know I saw it scheduled for Orlando, FL. And yes, 61K in revenue for less than a week in ten locations is a HUGE success in my estimation!

  10. The Tampa, Fla theatre I was talking about is the Woodlands 20 (across the bridge). I just spoke with someone there who said the movie was supposed to play for two weeks and only played for one week. No more showings are scheduled. She didn’t have any explenation other then “maybe there wasn’t a large enough audience”. She also mentioned that she was dissapointed.

  11. Mike Nelson: It was related and hadn’t been posted before, mixed bag IMO. Not trying to dog Russo’s film, just putting the reviews and sales figures out there (which is a good indicator of WHY it might have been pulled).

  12. Just listened to last night’s Free Talk Live. apparently the movie was pulled by Russo. He was impressed with the response to the movie and is taking it back for further editing and will re-release it later this year to a larger number of theaters.

  13. The question is why people care. A bad movie is a bad movie, whether we agree with it or not. The Angelika is right up the road from my house; they are typically very discriminating when it comes to quality of their films. They generally play only the best independent films, and this film just sounds bad. Reviews or not, ignoring basic economics while positing tax conspiracy theories and arguing that government registration is a sign that the US is now a fascist country only makes libertarians look like nutballs. I could probably think of 100 things going on signalling the rise of authoritarianism that would have made better documentary theses than anything Russo is offering. The movie has no appeal other than to its own choir, and obviously it is turning off a lot of people at a time when libertarianism should be turning people on. I say let it rot; the “Michael Moore style” always sickens me, but this is just plain counter-productive for our cause.

  14. Nick, I am sure you are very nice, but I have a question. Did you go to school down the street from the Dallas Angelika too? East or West side of 75? The question was why the distributor pulled the film. If you wished to comment on the film’s content, there are other pages here. Only half of your comment was needed. ;o) BTW, I have seen some pretty shitty films at both Dallas’s and Plano’s Angelika. (not often though)

    Now that I am through my bitchy moment, are you involved with your local LP? Dallas and Collin counties are doing some pretty cool stuff soon. Dallas has the HobNob and Pride Parade, and I am filling out the application for the Plano Balloon Fest now. We could sure use your help. Send me an email if you need contact info.

  15. You’re right Nick, we should all cower in some hole somewhere in fear that we might turn someone off. By the way, the film makes no mention of the LP or libertarianism in general anyway. Since you have so many great ideas on how to make a better film, I look forward to seeing yours.

    Incidentally, I attended the pre-screening of the film (at that very Angelica) and the place was packed and received a standing ovation.

  16. VanDyke – It’s a controversial movie… of course it is going to get some bad reviews. I have read a lot of positve reviews as well. Have you seen the film? Do you disagree with it?

  17. Mike Nelson: I haven’t seen it since it hasn’t come to Cleveland yet. Sounds like I’ll get a different view if he’s taking it back to the edit room before spreading it wider.

    Is the spoken commentary done by Russo? He’s a little high-strung in his arguments, so I can understand if people think he might have been out there a bit with his presentation.

  18. He is the narrator, and is very calm and professional throughout… although his voice is a bit raspy.

  19. This is the reason, according to an email I received from Mr. Russo today:

    LOS ANGELES – It was a rush to the box office last week as Aaron Russo’s hot documentary “America: Freedom to Fascism” opened in test markets in New York, Chicago, Austin, Tampa and Kansas City. The estimated box office last week was approximately $90,000.

    Russo used the test markets to evaluate audience response before spreading it across the country. The film was met with standing ovations and excellent exit polls. Russo feels that the prints could be technically improved, so he has made a decision to pull the film from theaters as of last night (Thursday). He will be upgrading the quality of the prints and releasing the film this September in time for the political season. The film will be released in many theaters across the country.

    Hope this helps explain the sudden pull. So it’ll be back, and better, in a month. Fine with me.


  20. Yall otta be grateful that your rulers care enough about ya to try to be yer nanny, big brother, step father and even yer momma and daddy! Yall are ingrates who should just shut up and pay yer taxes, especially that Russo!

  21. I just recieved an email from Arron Russo. HE PULLED THE FILM:

    Russo used the test markets to evaluate audience response before spreading it across the country. The film was met with standing ovations and excellent exit polls. Russo feels that the prints could be technically improved, so he has made a decision to pull the film from theaters as of last night (Thursday). He will be upgrading the quality of the prints and releasing the film this September in time for the political season. The film will be released in many theaters across the country.

    great news

  22. Just wanted to comment on the “conspiracy” theory tripe.

    It’s not a conspiracy- it’s a blatant construction of a police state. Nobody is hiding anything- simply that SOME journalists are too oblivious to see it. That doesn’t mean it’s a secret- it means you’re a moron.

    I saw FtF in April- room for improvement? Yes! A giant leap in the right direction? Yes!!! It is the first movie I’ve seen yet that I left the audience thinking it could actually make a difference in people’s behavior- not just more to bitch about but actually engaging the problems we are facing.

    Two thumbs up- hope it doesn’t get snuffed by the man.

    PS- Michelle! You’re absolutely beautiful! Your husband is a lucky man! Are any of your sisters still single? :) !

  23. I have not seen it so will reserve judgment. I don’t really see it taking off ( yes I see it as mostly a “choir” film), but I guess we will see what happens.

  24. The limited 5 city test premier of AFTF was a resounding success.

    Michelle, I think you would make a great Dallas-area volunteer coordinator for this movie.

    Feel free to call me anytime.

    Peace and God Bless,

    Fred Smart
    AFTF National Volunteer Coordinator
    312-602-2568 w
    847-878-8090 c

  25. Yeah, reading my comment I guess I did come off a bit spiteful; sorry. My point is, why did Russo target the one organization in the government advocating less taxation, lower tariffs and a freer market? Could he at least target something besides the least obvious and engaging subject when it comes to America turning towards fascism? I probably would agree with his points, but it’s not me that matters – its all the people who aren’t libertarians that need to be reached.

  26. I’m for the truth, any day now. I’m really sick of all the lies, coverups, corruption and main-stream media brainwashing. So, BRAVO! Can’t wait to see the movie.

    For the life of me, I can’t figure out how this movie has any connection whatsoever to the “Libertarians.” (???) I heard Russo interviewed by Alex Jones (http://prisonplanet.tv) regarding the movie. Russo specifically said people should quit bickering over the small stuff and unite to save our “Liberty.” That would be a great start.