While people threatened to boycott the Cineplex movie theaters in Canada because the pro-life film “Unplanned” was going to show there, the CEO of the Cineplex chain, Ellis Jacob, instead of backing down, issued a letter stating the chain would not capitulate, reminding the protesters, “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 would want to live in.”
The Daily Wire reported in May:
“Unplanned” tells the story of famed Planned Parenthood defector Abby Johnson, who left the organization to become a pro-life activist after witnessing an abortion while working at the Bryan, Texas Planned Parenthood clinic in 2009. Released in March, the movie arguably became one of the most successful independent movies of 2019 thus far by raking in $18 million in the box office on a $6 million budget.
The Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada had stated of the film, “It preaches an absolutist and extreme case against abortion that has nothing to do with reality. 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.”
The text of Jacob’s letter read:
Over the past few weeks, we have received many phone calls and emails from Canadians on both sides of the conversation about the film Unplanned. I want to thank everyone who has reached out for sharing their feedback with my team as well as take a moment to personally address our decision to move forward with a limited run of the film at our theatres.
I have been working in this business for well over thirty years and controversial films on the big screen are not new to me, to Cineplex, or to the industry as a whole. That said, the decision to move forward with screenings of this particular film was a complicated one and it was not made easily or lightly. But as leader of Canada’s largest film exhibition company, I am confident that it was the right decision for us, for you and for our country.
When I immigrated to Canada back in 1969, one of the things that I loved, and still love, the most about living here is that we don’t shy away from our differences … we embrace them. 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. 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 would want to live in.
The responsibility of determining whether content is appropriate for movie audiences and the audiences’ age parameters falls to provincial and territorial governments, through the film classification boards. Unplanned has been reviewed and rated by those boards, so Cineplex will be screening it at 14 out of our network of nearly 1,700 auditoriums across Canada for a one week run beginning on Friday.
I understand and appreciate the concerns about the film, but it is up to each of us to decide whether or not we want to see it. In Canada, we have that option and I think it is an important thing to remember.
Again, I want to thank everyone who has reached out to me and my colleagues. I appreciate you taking the time to read this.
Twitchy noted some of the moaning and groaning from those opposed to the film:
An open letter from Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob, on our decision to screen Unplanned. pic.twitter.com/bkA7tx2NWt
— Cineplex (@CineplexMovies) July 8, 2019
As if $25 for popcorn wasn't bad enough. Total boycott from me.
— Atheist Pete🏳️🌈🇨🇦 (@PeterCraigBate1) July 9, 2019
You have a fundamental misunderstanding what freedom of expression guarantees – freedom from gov't interference. It does not mean freedom from any consumer consequences due to a business decision to screen a movie that argues for a lessen of women's human rights.
— Kerri Froc (@KerriFroc) July 8, 2019
One woman even described the film as “U.S. funded propaganda.”
There are few things I love more than going to the movies. Your decision to show this film, a U.S.-funded propaganda vehicle that attacks a woman's right to choose, will mean I will no longer be seeing any movie at a Cineplex theatre. #BoycottCineplex #MyBodyMyChoice
— Tanya Pobuda (@PobudaTanya) July 9, 2019