Why ‘The Apprentice’ Filmmakers Have Not Yet Secured a US Distribution Deal | Analysis

Despite a successful premiere at Cannes in May and the kind of buzz that can only come from a cinematic deep dive into one of the most divisive Americans of this century, the Donald Trump biopic “The Apprentice” has still not yet secured distribution rights in the United States.

This reality, writes Michelle Goldberg in the New York Times, “isn’t just frustrating. It’s frightening.”

Goldberg’s concern is that Trump and his allies could be putting pressure on media companies and distributors to discourage them from buying rights to the film, even though those same rights have been purchased in countries around the world — including France, Canada, Germany and Japan. But major theatrical studios aren’t the only ones hesitating; streamers haven’t gone for the rights either.

The prevailing reason appears to be fear — be it fear of Trump, fear of politics, fear of engaging the MAGA voter base. Although, that reaction is well-founded, Goldberg noted, since Trump spent part of his presidency attempting to block AT&T’s acquisition of Time Warner — who owned CNN — because he didn’t like how CNN covered him.

That treatment might be nothing compared to what a second Trump term could hold for journalists and media powerhouse. As Kash Patel, Trump’s potential attorney general should he be elected in November, chortled to Steve Bannon during an appearance on his “War Room” podcast: “We will go out and find the conspirators not just in government, but in the media … we’re going to come after you whether it’s criminally or civilly. We’ll figure that out.”

That warning could be applied to anyone who worked on “The Apprentice,” something that would surprise the film’s director Ali Abbasi. While discussing the film at Cannes, he said thoughtfully, “I don’t necessarily think this is a movie he would dislike. I don’t think he would like it, I think he would be surprised.”

Trump’s campaign team sent a cease and desist to Abbasi after the movie debuted at Cannes. Steven Cheung, Trump campaign communications director, told TheWrap, “We will be filing a lawsuit to address the blatantly false assertions from these pretend filmmakers.”

“This garbage is pure fiction which sensationalizes lies that have been long debunked. This ‘film’ is pure malicious defamation, should not see the light of day, and doesn’t even deserve a place in the straight-to-DVD section of a bargain bin at a soon-to-be-closed discount movie store, it belongs in a dumpster fire,” Cheung added.

The film’s producers defended the movie following that statement, insisting, “The film is a fair and balanced portrait of the former president. We want everyone to see it and then decide.”

“The Apprentice” has ultimately divided critics, who have described it as “woefully bad — and worse, pointless” (the New York Times) and “a truthful dive into the ethos that guides Trump” (Brother Bro).

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