Controversy Brews Over Increased Security at 'Butler' Screening Outside D.C.

7:34 AM PST 08/19/2013 by Hilary Lewis

A couple claims the presence of police officers in the theater led them to feel racially profiled; Regal Entertainment says the additional personnel was merely due to the popularity of the film.

Two moviegoers claim there was extra security at a weekend showing of Lee Daniels' The Butler just outside Washington, DC. The couple says the increased police presence led them to feel racially profiled.

Tiffany Flowers, a labor organizer, tweeted about her experience at a Saturday evening showing at the Regal Majestic Theater in Silver Spring, Md., including seeing police officers in the theater and explaining that armed guards watched the mostly black audience while they watched the film. Flowers was accompanied by her spouse, Alan Hanson. Read her tweets below.

Flowers' tweets have since gotten national attention and led to reports on DC's NBC and ABC affiliates.

She told the local NBC affiliate that she felt this was an instance of racial profiling, since the crowd was mostly African-American.

"A lot of people feel that an overwhelmingly African-American audience getting three police officers to guard and manage our entrance and exit from the theater is very, very suspicious," she told NBC. "So I'm hoping that they come up with an answer that we can all deal with...."

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Indeed, Flowers and Hanson told ABC that the extra security seemed to only be for Lee Daniels' The Butler.

"There were rumblings among the crowd about being profiled at the movies. They must have thought this was going to be a particularly rowdy crowd," Flowers told ABC. "I've traveled the world; been to a lot of movie theaters. This is the first time I've ever seen anything like this…I hope that Regal understands this treatment is deplorable, disgusting, and they owe us all an apology,"

Hanson adds, "Our expectation is they will do the right thing. If not, there are a lot of eyes on this. I believe they'll respond by not spending their money at a Regal movie chain," Hanson says.

Flowers indicated on Twitter that she's working on a petition to get the movie out of the theater and posted the number for the multiplex, encouraging people to call and "express your disgust."

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Regal Entertainment Group issued the following statement to multiple outlets in response to the incident:

"Regal Entertainment Group routinely employs security personnel to ensure the safety of all of our guests and staff. When a theatre experiences sold out showings of any feature, security will assist with crowd control and guest assistance throughout the facility, including auditoriums.

This weekend our Majestic theatre experienced a tremendous guest response to the feature Lee Daniels' The Butler such that additional showtimes were added to meet our guests demands.

At no time last night did local management receive any guest complaints or concerns about our security or staff, who worked diligently to meet all of our guests needs.

To the extent any guests were disappointed with their experience, we welcome the opportunity to address their concerns and provide them the best entertainment experience possible in their future visits to our theatres."

Lee Daniels' The Butler, which is about the experiences of an African-American White House butler who served eight presidential administrations, opened in theaters Friday. The Weinstein Co. movie topped the weekend box office with an estimated $25 million.

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