Here Comes 'SiCKO'

By Susan Jones | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - Due to popular demand? Or because pirated copies are circulating on the Internet? Whatever the reason, Michael Moore's new movie 'SiCKO,' an indictment of the U.S. health care system, is opening ahead of schedule.

"Due to the fantastic reaction SiCKO received at its premieres and pre-release screenings, the overwhelming demand from audiences who want to see the film, and the early reviews from critics, Michael Moore's highly anticipated and entertaining film SiCKO will open in New York City this Friday, June 22nd, one week earlier than originally planned," the Weinstein Company said in a news release on Tuesday.

Sneak previews of SiCKO will be held in selected cities around the country on Saturday evening.

The announcement came one day after YouTube pulled links to pirated versions of SiCKO that appeared over the weekend, but the movie is still available elsewhere on the Internet.

"[Monday] night's standing ovation at the N.Y. premiere of SiCKO confirmed what we believed to be true since the film's launch in Cannes, which is that audiences love the movie," said Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, and one of the film's executive producers.

Weinstein described sneak previews as "a great marketing tool" for a "strong movie" like SiCKO.

"If you want to stay healthy in America, don't get sick," Michael Moore says about his new documentary, which focuses on flaws in the American health care system and problems pinned on the insurance industry.

"Sicko promises to be every bit as indicting as Moore's previous films," the filmmaker promises. Moore's previous films include the Bush-bashing, anti-war "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bowling for Columbine," an examination of violence in America.

On a website devoted to his new movie, Moore urges Americans to share their "healthcare horror stories" by submitting videotapes of "an experience you had with your healthcare insurance company."

Moore said he will screen the videos and share them with Congress, as part of a push for government-run, universal health care. A number of people have uploaded their video sob stories to YouTube.

In a statement issued last week, the senior vice president of the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, Ken Johnson, called Michael Moore a "very talented filmmaker" who is giving Americans an unbalanced view of America's health care system.

"Can we find ways to improve America's health care system? Absolutely. But biased, one-sided attacks will not advance that cause. Sadly, Michael Moore, despite his obvious talents, is a political activist with a track record for sensationalism. He has no intention of being fair and balanced."

For example, Johnson mentioned two ways that Pharma is trying to improve America's health care system.

One, the Partnership for Prescription Assistance (PPA), helps qualifying patients get free or low-cost medications through public or private patient assistance programs. Pharma said PPA's mission "is to increase awareness of patient assistance programs and boost enrollment of those who are eligible."

Johnson also noted that Pharma supports congressional reauthorization of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP), which provides a wide range of health services for millions of children from uninsured, low-income families.

"Not surprisingly, you won't hear about the PPA and SCHIP from Michael Moore on his Web site or in his new film," Johnson said.

On Wednesday in Washington, D.C., an invitation-only audience of U.S. lawmakers and others will get an advance look at "SiCKO," Moore's website says.

The movie opens in theaters across the country on June 29.

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