A Canadian movie theater canceled its showing of “Unplanned” this week after reportedly receiving violent threats from abortion activists.
The film, based on the true story of Planned Parenthood director-turned pro-life advocate Abby Johnson, received overwhelming support in American theaters this spring. On July 12, it will begin playing across Canada, though only about two dozen theaters plan to show it.
Abortion activists failed to stop the pro-life film from coming to Canada, so now it appears that they are trying to censor it through threats of violence.
The Salmar Theatres in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, initially planned to show the film, but Kamloops This Week reports managers decided to cancel the five-day showing after receiving threats that made them fear for their safety.
Salmar Community Association board member Chris Papworth said the decision to pull the film was difficult, but their employees’ safety must come first.
“Is it OK now on any given hot-button issue to contact the manager on a personal level? Let’s just harass her until she capitulates to our demands?” Papworth told the local news. “We don’t like the precedence [of canceling the show], but at the same time, we’re not willing to put our manager, who we value greatly, at any kind of personal risk in our community.”
He said the theater is used to receiving comments about controversial films, but they never have received threats like this before.
“… certainly in the past, there hasn’t been an effort to dox employees or, specifically, the general manager, by releasing their personal information on social media and then encouraging people to go after them as the one responsible for some heinous act,” he said. “We just aren’t prepared for those levels of hostility towards our general manager.”
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Hildegard Krieg of the Shuswap Pro-Life Society expressed sympathy for the theater employees and said they respect their decision.
“If they had just come out to picket while the movie is running, I could accept that,” Krieg told the news outlet. “But I cannot accept that they should actually threaten somebody with violence personally and the family. That is absolutely uncalled for. A peaceful picket, OK, we walk through the picket line. But that is going too far.”
She said they may try to host a private showing of “Unplanned” at the theater at a later date.
Earlier this week, the distribution company Cinedicom reported that some theaters are receiving threats and others expect protests from abortion activists.
“Some groups are saying that they’ll protest, and there’s a lot of people that will support,” BJ McKelvie, president of the company, told The Canadian Press. “We have one company that’s come under intense scrutiny, so he’s going to have security there. It’s The Movie Mill in Lethbridge, Alta. It’s been unfortunate that he’s had a lot of threats, a lot of emails.”
Some theaters told McKelvie that they will not show the film because it is too controversial, he said.
Ironically, Canadian abortion activists attacked the film by claiming it could incite violence against abortionists.
“It preaches an absolutist and extreme case against abortion that has nothing to do with reality,” the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada said in a statement. “Because of the film’s demonization of abortion providers, ARCC fears the movie could incite fanatics to commit acts of harassment or violence against clinics or doctors.”
But the opposite is true. Previously, producer/director Chuck Konzelman said they worked hard to accurately portray Johnson’s work at Planned Parenthood and her fellow employees.
“Abby was very firm that she wanted this film to be a love letter to those trapped in the abortion industry,” he said.
Johnson quit her job at Planned Parenthood a decade ago after watching an ultrasound-guided abortion and seeing the unborn baby fight for its life. Now, she runs a ministry called And Then There Were None, which provides support for abortion industry workers who want to quit.
The filmmakers experienced obstacles in the U.S. as well, including a media blackout, an ‘R’ rating designed to discourage viewers and little publicity outside conservative media circles. Still, “Unplanned” opened in fourth place during its first weekend at the box office. It earned more than $18 million, and stayed in the top 10 in its second week at the box office.
Johnson previously commented about the hostilities in Canada.
“I have to wonder what they’re afraid of,” she said, previously. “I’m also deeply concerned that many people here have not been able to speak publicly, because they are concerned about punishment. That is not democracy; that is oppression.”
In the United States, producers said most major TV outlets refused to run their ads. Twitter also temporarily suspended the film’s account, and Google labeled the film “propaganda” when people searched for it online. The online giant later removed the label after complaints.
To find out which Canadian theaters are screening “Unplanned,” visit UnplannedFilm.com.