Steve Bannon announced Friday morning that his $1 million, two-hour cinematic opus on Sarah Palin’s political career will be distributed by AMC Theaters, the second largest theater chain in the U.S. with 5,325 screens. The Palin film will not be hitting all those screens, though, just those in 10 U.S. locales: Dallas, Denver, Oklahoma City, Orlando, Atlanta, Orange County, Phoenix, Houston, Indianapolis and Kansas City for an as-of-yet determined run.
“AMC is committed to providing distinct content to diverse audiences across the United States,” Nikkole Denson-Randolph, VP, Specialty & Alternative Content at AMC Theatres said in the press release. “We are proud to consistently offer a wide variety of product to our guests.” The move, The Undefeated, will hit theaters on July 15. (PHOTOS: Sarah Palin’s wild bus tour)
While Palin fans will surely be over the moon about this – the film is largely, well, fawning – the GOP leadership won’t be too psyched. I saw a rough cut of the movie yesterday along with a few other reporters in Arlington, Virginia. The movie follows Palin’s rise from mayor of Wasilla to governor and then vice presidential nominee. It painstakingly explains her decision to quit the governor’s office after half a term – a potential sticking point with voters – because dozens of mostly frivolous ethics complaints were bankrupting her family and costing the state millions of dollars to investigate.
But, the most striking section of the movie comes in the final chapter entitled, “From Here I Can See November.” The quote comes from Palin’s speech in April in Madison, Wisconsin, a moment, Bannon says, that he believes will go down in history as pivotal for the Republican Party and in American history. In the speech, Palin goes after the GOP establishment with a fury. “I’ll take on the GOP establishment. What more can they say about us, you know?” she rails. “Game on!” (Is Palin running for President? A set of improbable coincidences.)
Those comments are followed by Andrew Breitbart, a conservative publisher and commentator, who calls Republican leaders “eunuchs” and questions their manhood; photos of John Boehner and Mitch McConnell are overlaid. “The Republican establishment understands that she’s an existential threat not only to [President] Obama, but to them,” Breitbart says. “These Washington men who do not have the courage the way Sarah Palin does.” In fact, rarely is Barack Obama mentioned in the film: it’s all about Palin taking down the Republican establishment and leading a “revolution,” Reagan-style, to overhaul the Party.
Mark Levin, conservative radio talk show host and former chief-of-staff to Ed Meese in the Reagan Administration, makes the case that Palin is the Ronald Reagan on this generation. Like Reagan, Palin is mocked and called “dumb,” Levin says, and like him, she is “an outsider trying to fight for change.” And in a subtle dig at the frontrunner, Levin’s comments that only Palin excites the base and can draw crowds of 30,000+ are overlaid with pictures of her speaking to an adoring audience during the 2008 campaign with John McCain and Mitt Romney standing behind her.
(As my esteemed London colleague Catherine Mayer notes today, Palin’s hopes to meet iconic conservative Margaret Thatcher – one of Reagan’s great partners in the Cold War — on a trip through England next month on her way to the Sudan have been rudely dashed.)
The movie will premiere in Iowa, Bannon says, on June 28 or 29 – they’re still trying to nail down the theater. It will also have select showings in the other three early primary states: New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada. “We don’t have Warner Brothers to buy ads for us on Anderson Cooper,” Bannon says. The tour is a way to get “earned media… These are places where politics is big.” (Palin’s ‘WTF’ moment.)
Bannon, who produced such big Hollywood films as Indian Runner and Titus, says he became interested in Palin after completing two other documentaries on the Tea Party movement. The second, From the Heartland, featured Rep. Michele Bachmann. When asked if both women run for President, which would he prefer, Bannon waxes poetic about Palin. “Palin brings a different set of — clearly her accomplishments compare to anyone out there,” he says. “As much as [Mario] Cuomo, [Henry] Cabot Lodge or Adlai Stevenson – she is as good as the best governors this country had in 20th century. Take entire terms from George W. Bush in Texas or Bill Clinton in Arkansas and compare it to what she accomplished in 20 months in Alaska and they’re in the same ballpark.” And that offers a good sense of the tenor of The Undefeated, coming soon to a theater relatively near you.