A Canadian theater owner defended his plans to show the film “Unplanned” this week amid threats from abortion activists.
Refusing to capitulate to their censorship demands, Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob said he believes strongly in the freedom of expression even when the position is unpopular, according to The Globe and Mail.
His and other theaters across Canada are being pressured into canceling the film, which is slated to open Friday. One theater did cancel the planned showing after it said its staff received violent threats.
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 in about two dozen theaters across Canada.
Jacob released a statement this week defending his company’s decision to show “Unplanned.”
“When I immigrated to Canada back in 1969, one of the things that I loved, and still love, the most about living here was that we didn’t shy away from our differences – we embrace them,” he said in a statement Monday.
“Canada is a country that believes in and rallies behind freedom of expression, but that isn’t always an easy thing to do and it certainly doesn’t always make you popular,” Jacob continued. “In this instance many of us will have to set aside our own personal beliefs and remember that living in a country that censors content, opinions and points of view because they are different from our own is not a country that any of us want to live in.”
He said anyone who does not want to see the film does not have to.
“I understand and can appreciate the concerns about the film, but it is up to each of us to decide whether or not we want to see it,” Jacob said. “In Canada, we have that option and I think it is an important thing to remember.”
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An open letter from Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob, on our decision to screen Unplanned. pic.twitter.com/bkA7tx2NWt
— Cineplex (@CineplexMovies) July 8, 2019
“Unplanned” will run in 14 Cineplex theaters across Canada starting Friday, according to the report.
Last week, Kamloops This Week reported managers of the The Salmar Theatres in Salmon Arm, British Columbia, decided to cancel the five-day showing after receiving threats that made them fear for their safety.
The distribution company Cinedicom, which brought “Unplanned” to Canada, 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.
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.
Abby 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.