Citing the film’s racial insensitivity, a Memphis moviehouse has decided to stop showing “Gone With the Wind” after 34 straight years.
The Orpheum screened “GWTW” on Aug. 11, the same night as a torch march by white supremacists in Charlottesville. The Orpheum quickly became the target of a social media campaign to stop showing the movie.
"As an organization whose stated mission is to ‘entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,’ the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population,” Orpheum President Brett Batterson said in a statement.
Batterson later told the Memphis Commercial Appeal:
“This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home.”
The president of the Fox Theatre in Atlanta on Tuesday appeared to leave the door open — or not — to future screenings of “GWTW” at the Fox, which last showed the movie a couple of months ago.
“We at the Fox Theatre respect the Orpheum Theatre’s decision to no longer show ‘Gone With the Wind,” Fox CEO Allan Vella said in an emailed statement. “This is a complicated discussion in light of recent events and due to the fact the film has great significance to both Georgia’s and Atlanta’s history,” his statement said.
Then he added: “With the 2017 Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival coming to a close, we are not planning any additional movie programming. We will certainly take into account in our programming discussions in the future, the complex social and historical importance of any film we select.”
Meanwhile, in Memphis, the social media backlash to the Orpheum’s decision was almost immediate.
Said one post on the theater’s Facebook page: “We don't need Brett Batterson or anyone else telling us what movies we should be watching. As long as the movie draws a suitable crowd...that should be the ONLY criteria that the Orpheum should abide by...especially a movie that has run for 34 consecutive years!”
The Facebook page also received expressions of support from theater patrons and other commenters.
“The Orpheum board called the flick insensitive, and the Orpheum board is right. But ‘GWTW' has been insensitive for a long time. Producer David Selznick thought he was being progressive and forward-thinking when he toned the Margaret Mitchell novel down in 1939, but time, it does move along. And what looked refined and up-to-date back before World War II (you should see how blacks are portrayed in OTHER Depression-era movies) looks callous and boorish today.”
He concluded: “Let’s not burn the negative, OK? Not quite yet.”
In Atlanta, the Fox Theatre has shown "Gone With the Wind” as recently as June, during a Rotary International convention in the city. A review of Coca-Cola Summer Film Festival schedules online shows that “GWTW” was last part of the festival rotation in 2014.
The movie premiered in Atlanta at the Loew’s Grand Theatre in 1939. Hattie McDaniel, who won an Oscar for her portrayal of Mammy, and Butterfly McQueen were both barred from attending because the theater did not seat black people.