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‘Zero Dark Thirty’ objections could be obstacle to an Oscar

Stationed covert base overseas JessicChasta(center) plays member elite team spies military operatives (Christopher Stanley LEFT Alex Corbet Burcher RIGHT) who

Stationed in a covert base overseas, Jessica Chastain (center) plays a member of the elite team of spies and military operatives (Christopher Stanley, LEFT and Alex Corbet Burcher, RIGHT) who secretly devoted themselves to finding Osama Bin Laden in Columbia Pictures' electrifying new thriller directed by Kathryn Bigelow, ZERO DARK THIRTY.

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Updated: January 22, 2013 6:29AM

There’s no question controversy drives people to the box office. But when it comes to Oscar-quality films, some Hollywood cynics say issues surrounding certain films — especially allegations of inaccuracies — are stirred up by folks out to derail an Academy Award campaign.

That might be tied to the bipartisan bashing of “Zero Dark Thirty” by Sens. Dianne Feinstein, John McCain and Carl Levin — outlined in the letter they sent to Sony Pictures expressing their unhappiness with the film.

It’s clear the senators couldn’t care less about awards season, but it’s equally clear that in a year that is extremely competitive, other studios and promoters of other movies are making sure Oscar voters are well aware of the letter.

In Feinstein’s words, she and her colleagues consider “Zero Dark Thirty” a combination of “fact, fiction and Hollywood” and are distressed the film’s lengthy sequence showing waterboarding by American agents at the start of the movie can make audiences believe that torturing led to key disclosures that helped hunt down Osama bin Laden.

The senators have asked Sony to add a disclaimer to the credits indicating “Zero Dark Thirty” (opening Jan. 4 in Chicago) is not an exact historical depiction of the events leading up to bin Laden’s death.

WILL THINGS CHANGE? While no one will go on the record about this, I have heard from nearly a dozen top entertainment industry powerbrokers over the past few days about the insanity that struck Sandy Hook Elementary School last Friday. With no exception, they all reflect this comment from one of the biggest producers in Hollywood:

“Yes, for the moment you see people scaling back violent scenes in [movie] trailers, and a few potentially offensive TV episodes have been replaced by reruns.

“Yes, they canceled or scaled back premieres for violent films like [Quentin] Tarantino’s ‘Django Unchained.’ The topic of gun laws is being discussed at every lunch and dinner out here this week — and I do think America is going to demand bans on assault weapons going forward.

“But at the end of the day, until American audiences vote with their feet — and refuse to consume films, TV shows, video games or music that showcase or focus on violent themes — Hollywood will continue to produce them.

“That’s just a fact. This is show business — with business being the operative word, as it always has been out here.”

† In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, filmmaker Michael Moore wants as many people as possible to revisit his Oscar-winning anti-gun documentary “Bowling for Columbine.”

That’s why Moore has made the film available all over the Internet — for free. It’s accessible on YouTube, NetFlix and the progressive CurrentTV’s website.

On his own website, Moore said, “I am truly beside myself this time. I tried to ring a warning bell about this a decade ago. The disease has only gotten worse.”

MORMON MOMENTUM: Among the lucky crowd packing the Bank of America Theatre for Wednesday night’s official Chicago opening of “The Book of Mormon” were Mayor Rahm Emanuel, first lady Amy Rule and their son Zach, plus Cubs owner Tom Ricketts, Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and hubby Ald. Ed Burke, Judge Julian Frazin, Chris Kennedy, Ryan Chiavarini, Steve Traxler and Arny Granat.

Emanuel’s obvious enjoyment was matched by the audience’s but did lead one wag to quip, “Considering how many f-bombs they drop on stage, Rahm could have been one of the show’s writers!”

TAKE NOTE: The specially priced tickets mentioned in Wednesday’s column for “War Horse” at the Cadillac Palace Theatre — for teachers, military, police and fire officials are for Sunday — not Monday, when there is no performance of the play.

† Speaking of “War Horse,” the cast is doing another nice thing Friday, heading to Lurie Children’s Hospital to serenade the kids there with Christmas carols.

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