The anti-abortion film “Unplanned” has created a fair amount of controversy, from a random Twitter ban to the usual slate of negative reviews that almost universally accompany any movie with a conservative message.
That hasn’t dulled its appeal at the box office, where it has earned more than $18 million in the United States against a $6 million production budget, according to Box Office Mojo. That’s a pretty hefty total. It also may be why activists in our neighbor to the north don’t want the film shown at all.
According to the Washington Examiner, Canadian theater chain Cineplex is standing firm against those calling for a boycott, saying that customers can make up their own minds as to whether to watch the film.
The movie chronicles the story of former Planned Parenthood clinic director Abby Johnson, who became an anti-abortion champion after witnessing the procedure. Cineplex will be showing the movie at 14 auditoriums across Canada.
With the Canadian release of “Unplanned” coming up this Friday, Cineplex was inundated with lovely, measured tweets such as these:
I rarely go to movies but this will make my decision to stay home a lot easier. This movie should only be shown in church basements. Sorry @CineplexMovies and @landmark you’re not getting my business if you screen this piece of propaganda.
— Canteach (@canteach) July 5, 2019
— Maddy 🌙 (@MaddyFast) July 7, 2019
— So? (@EfkaMarchefka13) July 5, 2019
It wasn’t just hashtivists going after the film. Somewhat incredibly, the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada said that “Unplanned” was “a dangerous piece of anti-abortion propaganda” and that “[b]ecause 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.”
Apparently, you can’t even show a film with a point of view at variance with that of the Abortion Rights Coalition of Canada without literally putting the lives of abortion providers at risk.
Thankfully, Cineplex CEO Ellis Jacob decided not to bow to the mob.
“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,” Jacob said in a statement.
“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.”
Jacob went on to note that “Unplanned” had been rated by the appropriate film authorities and deemed acceptable to exhibit.
“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,” Jacob said in conclusion.
Of course, the letter led to more enlightened tweets like this one:
is not freedom of speech if the things being said impede on human rights. Women should have the rights to chose what happens to their bodies. This film is propaganda and you have chosen to partake and stand behind the message. This letter is a waste of your time and mine.
— 🙏 TJ Bennett 🙏 (@ChaosKittenTj) July 8, 2019
Yes, a point of view that differs from yours can “impede on human rights.” And there was more:
Everyone demanding freedom of speech in order to take away freedom from women and control our uterus. Women’s body parts still under threat from religious zealotry
— Tracey Kent 🐕 🏳️🌈 (@TraceyKent) July 8, 2019
Will you post a disclaimer stating that it’s a work of fiction and should not be interpreted as being factually accurate or representative of the abortion issue?
— Irene B. (@PainterMom101) July 8, 2019
I’m personally of the view that the most important human right — once you get beyond life and liberty — is the freedom of speech. Saying that a film cannot exercise it or that a theater chain cannot display a movie because people have the right to make a choice as to what they want to see is in blatant opposition to that freedom.
According to Jacob’s letter, there are 1,700 Cineplex auditoriums across Canada. Only 14 of them will be showing “Unplanned.” If you don’t want to go, don’t go. There are plenty of other movies playing, some of which probably have suitably liberal themes. You can go to them, Canadian liberals.
My guess is that “Unplanned” will draw a select audience of Christians, conservatives and the curious. Everyone else isn’t going to care. And that’s the way it ought to be.
Perhaps Google and Facebook ought to take some notes.