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A movie theater in Clearwater, Florida — home of the world spiritual headquarters of the Church of Scientology — has dropped plans to play Alex Gibney‘s documentary Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief after being pressured by the church, sources tell The Hollywood Reporter.
However, residents of Clearwater, including former members of the church, still will be able to see Gibney’s Scientology movie when HBO Documentary Films re-releases it in theaters. The AMC Woodlands Square 20 in the neighboring town of Olsdmar, some 12 miles from Clearwater, has agreed to pick up the documentary and play it on behalf of HBO Films.
Going Clear was released in only a few theaters on March 13, 2015 before airing on HBO on March 29, scoring HBO’s biggest premiere ever for a documentary. Gibney’s film, based on Lawrence Wright‘s book of the same name, offers a damning view of Scientology, including the role such celebrities as Tom Cruise and John Travolta play in furthering the church’s efforts. It won three Emmys last Saturday, including outstanding documentary film.
Cobb Countryside 12, which had planned to play the movie, informed HBO Documentary Films in recent days that it wouldn’t play Going Clear after allegedly receiving threats from the church, according to sources. It’s unclear what those threats were and to whom they were directed. HBO declined to comment and Cobb could not immediately be reached for comment.
Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw said that this was “just another of Gibney’s publicity stunts to go along with all of the other phony ‘threats’ he has manufactured to get attention. It is pure fiction just like his film. For the truth about his film, see www.Freedommag.org/hbo.”
In most cases, major theater chains won’t play a film that is available on other platforms. AMC has made exceptions for some specialty films, agreeing to rent, or “four wall,” an auditorium. Sources say that is the case with Going Clear.
As awards season gears up, HBO Films is re-releasing Going Clear in roughly 20 theaters in select markets, beginning with New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Washington, Miami and other major cities on Sept. 25. On Oct. 2, it will book additional theaters in other markets, including AMC Woodlands Square.
Beginning in the 1970s, the church began establishing a stronghold in Clearwater, a beach city on the west coast of Florida not far from Tampa, referring to it as their “Flag Land Base.” In 2013, Scientology leader David Miscavige led the dedication ceremonies of the Flag Building, a multi-million cathedral.
The Church of Scientology responded vehemently to the film, complaining to film critics about their reviews and denouncing the filmmakers and their interviewees.
Sept. 20, 11:55 p.m. Updated with a Scientology statement.
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