Anti-abortion film screening cancelled after B.C. theatre receives threats

Shuswap Pro-Life Society supports decision, will pursue private screening of movie Unplanned

Threats made against Salmar Theatres staff have led to a decision not to show the controversial anti-abortion film Unplanned.

Salmar Community Association board member Chris Papworth confirmed Thursday, July 4, that the board has agreed to pull the movie’s five-day run, set to begin on July 12 at the Salmar Classic. He said the difficult decision to cancel the film was made out of concern for the personal safety for Salmar Theatres management, who had received personal threats via social media.

“We have a track record of showing things from a variety of points of view… we try not to preclude things because of whatever personal opinions may exist on our board or something like that,” explained Papworth, adding it is not unusual for people to complain about something showing at the Salmar Classic or Grand. “What’s different here… 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.

“We just aren’t prepared for those levels of hostility towards our general manager.”

Papworth said management has been encouraged to forward any threats made online to the RCMP.

The showing of Unplanned, a PG-rated movie from a Canadian distributor, had been organized with support from members of the Shuswap Pro-Life Society. Speaking for the society, Hildegard Krieg said they are disappointed by the cancellation, but respect the Salmar’s decision.

Read more: Controversial anti-abortion film ‘Unplanned’ to hit more than 24 Canadian theatres

Read more: ‘No appetite’ to ban abortions in Canada amid U.S. bills, expert says

Read more: Salmon Arm mother upset after angry movie mob vents on 15-year-old daughter

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“If they had just come out to picket while the movie is running, I could accept that,” said Krieg. “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.”

Papworth is also uncomfortable with the precedent cancelling the film sets, but prioritizes the safety of Salmar employees.

“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?” said Papworth. “We don’t like the precedence, 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.”

Papworth says there’s still the option for Unplanned to be shown privately at the Classic.

“They would then rent the classic and bring it in as a private viewing,” said Papworth. “That would be up to them. And we wouldn’t discourage anybody from renting the Classic and showing a film, whatever they happen to choose to show.”

Krieg said this is what the Shuswap Pro-Life Society would likely do at a later date.

Unplanned stars Ashley Bratcher as a Planned Parenthood clinic director who becomes an anti-abortion speaker after “the day she saw something that changed everything.” The film, based on a book of the same name by anti-abortion activist Abby Johnson, is set to play in more than 24 movie houses across Canada beginning July 12.


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