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Wary Kimball's cancels opening of Errol Morris doc, Standard Operating Procedure

click to enlarge Until late last week, the show was on. - MATTHEW SCHNIPER

When the banner headline on the Gazette's front page reads "REPORT: U.S. HID DETAINEES," it can be viewed as a sign of the times.

Despite the paper's conservative leanings, its editors last week chose to lead with the ongoing revelations about treatment of foreign detainees.

So the "coming soon" sign at Kimball's Twin Peak Theater seemed especially well-timed, given that it promoted Standard Operating Procedure, the new film by Errol Morris about the treatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib.

Except that early last week, the independent theater canceled the film's June 20 opening and pulled it from the "upcoming films" page of its Web site. By week's end, the "coming soon" poster was gone as well.

"Honestly, I don't know whether we'll be able to exhibit it or not," says theater owner Kimball Bayles, who this week will open Sergei Bodrov's Mongol, which details the life of 13th-century emperor Genghis Khan.

But isn't the Morris film a bit more, um, timely?

"Mongol will make me a lot more money," answers the theater owner. "SOP will make ... you know, documentaries on Iraq are a tough sell, and we've played them out. We've shown Iraq in Fragments, Body of War oh God, I don't even know off the top of my head how many."

Bayles dismisses the idea Morris has marquee value because his last film, The Fog of War, won an Oscar.

"Well, now there is a film that actually made no money," says Bayles, adding that "if there's another film out there that's a stronger film, that will bring in more business, then that's how I stay in business to show movies like Standard Operating Procedure."

Matt Stevens, the theater's manager, believes the film will be rescheduled.

"Just because the film was postponed doesn't mean it's never going to play," says Stevens, who points out the theater is hosting a July 12 screening of Body of War, the story of paralyzed Iraq war veteran Tomas Young, as a benefit for Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW).

Garett Reppenhagen of the Colorado Springs IVAW chapter, who appears in Body of War, thinks the box office drop-off for anti-war films is due to "a kind of hopelessness."

"I think the majority of the people are against the war," he says. "They can see a lot of movies, but I think they just don't know what to do."

Still, Reppenhagen figures, even if Barack Obama is elected president, and moves to make good on pledges to withdraw troops from Iraq, he'll need support of an aware public.

"It's just important that these movies are seen and everybody's informed completely, because I don't think one political candidate is going to be able to make a difference if the entire nation is not backing him."

Bayles says he's doing his part.

"I play the smallest movies of anybody in town, trust me," he says. "Most of them are just gifts to the people of Colorado Springs, because I make very little or no money on them.

"When you play a movie for two weeks and you get maybe 40 people, you're losing money. So you go down the list and you'll see I've played them all. And, if scheduling permits, we'll play this one."



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