Showings of anti-abortion film sell out in Chilliwack, despite backlash

Ticket sales for a controversial American anti-abortion film have been “very brisk,” says the owner of a Chilliwack theatre, despite a backlash against the movie coming north of the border.

The movie, called Unplanned, tells the story of Abby Johnson, a former Texas Planned Parenthood clinic director who became an anti-abortion activist.

The film is screening in a handful of independent theatres in B.C., along with several Landmark and Cineplex locations, including Langley, Mission and Nanaimo. Critics have called it propaganda that is riddled with falsehoods.

Theatres in Kelowna and Salmon Arm have pulled the film, the latter after allegedly receiving threats.

But speaking on CKNW’s The Lynda Steele Show, Pauline Lamb, owner of Chilliwack’s Cottonwood Four Cinemas, said several evening screenings of the film — which will run for a week, starting Friday — have already sold out.

“We get requests every month for different movies and our criteria is when people are requesting movies, we do our best to bring them in,” said Lamb.

“This movie has overtaken every request we’ve ever had. We probably had around 50 requests for this movie since it was aired in the ‘States in March, we normally get four or five requests a month.

A spokesperson for the Kelowna Right to Life Society told Global News that the private screening of the film that it had organized also sold out in nine minutes, while a second screening in West Kelowna sold out in about two hours.

Supporters of the film have encouraged church groups to “flood theatres opening weekend,” and, where possible, to buy all of the tickets for individual showings to hold a “life night.”

Lamb said her job is to show movies — whether she agrees with them or not — and that the demand is there for this product.

She added that she doesn’t have any safety concerns about screening the film.

Cineplex, Canada’s largest theatre chain, is screening the movie at 14 locations, a decision defended by president and CEO Ellis Jacob, who said showing controversial films is part of the business.

“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,” he said in a statement Monday.

“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.”

But Julie Lalonde with the Abortion Rights Coalition Canada said misinformation in the film is being “weaponized” and that it does not reflect the reality of abortion in Canada.

“We are big believers in freedom of expression, so absolutely we don’t think it’s some kind of criminal act to show the film, but we do think it’s really irresponsible to show a film that is incredibly inaccurate,” she said.

“For example, in Canada, Planned Parenthood doesn’t perform abortions. We don’t perform late-term abortions in this country, so that kind of information being out in the world can be pretty dangerous.”

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