Michael Moore'scontroversial Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted at number one at the United ArabEmirates' box office last week, its first opening in an Arab state in theMiddle East.

Its distributor,UAE-based Front Row Entertainment, said the film brought in over 26,000admissions for a gross box office of $211,000 in five days on 16 screens.

The film opened on July 14, and was up against films such as Agent CodyBanks 2: Destination London and EuroTrip.

The United ArabEmirates audiences have been mostly composed of expatriates, including Iraqis, some ofwhom "have walked out of the theatre describing Fahrenheit 9/11 as ahighly affecting and emotional film too painful to bare," said Front Rowmanaging director Gianluca Chacra.

The company credits the documentary's success to several factors,including its winning the Palme d'Or award at Cannes Film Festival, the generalcontroversy behind the film itself, its "General" audience rating, helpful in aMuslim country, and its subject matter relevant to the region.

The film isslated for release on Thursday (July 22) in Syria and Lebanon, with a "90percent" chance of first screenings the same day for Jordan, said Chacra."Supposedly it's fine, but they need to get approval from higher authorities,"he said.

The film wasbanned in Kuwait, though it came out yesterday in Bahrain, Qatar and Oman. Itwill be shown in cinemas in Egypt in early August, as that country has a policypromoting only local releases during the summer.

The movie isbeing released amid controversy over Front Row's alleged acceptance ofdonations from organizations related to Hezbollah in Lebanon, who had asked howthey could help with distribution.

According toChacra, no such funds were received, only an offer of assistance in publicisingthe film. "Naturally we didn't reply negatively to that, as they have a hugeimpact on Lebanese and Muslim audiences," he said. "The only possible responsewe could give them was, 'Go watch the film, and if you like it, you're free topublicise it.'"