I had people protest a movie only once in 20 years. The Da Vinci Code was released. That premiere Friday, approximately 5 people approached the box office with several handmade signs, a large framed painting of Jesus, and an enormous wooden crucifix. The BO attendant asked what they were seeing. They stared at him.
He felt a little uncomfortable and called for me. As I left the booth the protesters began praying, blocking people from buying tickets. This is at a time when Tom Hanks automatically sold out a Friday so the line was there and getting worked up. The BO attendant was trying to get ticket buyers around them the best he could.
When I got outside, the protestors shoved the crucifix at me. I retreated in pain like Lugosi would which entertained some of the folks in line. The woman holding the crucifix widened her eyes.
I regained my composure and asked who was in charge. They reacted as if I was speaking a foreign language. I asked again. The woman with the crucifix kept shaking it at me as if it’s batteries were draining. After some blank stares one gentleman said he guessed he was.
I thanked him and thanked the group for coming out. I asked them to move out of line so we could speak undisturbed. They complied and stepped close to an exit door.
I asked what they were protesting. The sinful Da Vinci Code. I said cool, why? Only one answered, not the leader, said that the book goes against God, Jesus had no children, etc. I asked if any of them were bible scholars. They did not know what that was. I said I was keenly interested in their point of view, what specifically was so bad? Did they read the book? Had they somehow seen the movie?
Jesus, or their pastor, told them about the movie. A couple of them did not know it was a book. No one had a bible with them. I explained that I appreciate them using their constitutional right to protest and thanked them for choosing my sinful theatre. Eventually their guard went down. I explained what private property was and that I could have them arrested for being on mine. They did not like the sound of that. I explained where they could stand so that movie goers would see them and get their message.
If they went to the end of the driveway they would be standing under the marquee, technically on the highway. They could be there all night to get everyone coming in and people passing by. Clearly, this was their first protest.
I asked them when the newspaper or media was arriving. They had no idea what I meant. I said they need publicity. I would call the newspaper and my guy at the radio. I would not have time to get local television involved. Perhaps when they came back on Saturday we could get that rolling. They were completely baffled.
I led them like the pied piper to the edge of the road under the marquee and explained how they could get the message to the most people. The woman holding the painting was very excited and thanked me for the help. The leader and crucifix bearer glared at her. I excused myself, thanking them again.
I got back to the booth, started one movie late and got two more on time. I had enough time then to make my calls. The newspaper would be there shortly with a photographer. They were hoping for something like this. The radio guy was not sure if they would send anyone.
Once the set was in I went down to the lobby and explained what was going on. Everyone was so excited that we had protesters. Some did not understand why I was so nice to them. I explained how free publicity works and we could go over the numbers next weekend to see if this got some people from our competition.
The BO attendant said he could see the photographer. One person was hiding their face. The crucifix bearer was asked to lower the cross so they could get a better picture. The Saturday edition of the newspaper had them on the front page. The woman holding the painting in the center of the phot, grinning from ear to ear. Everyone else looked miserable.
They radio did send a reporter it no one in the group wanted to talk. A missed opportunity.
All in all, I was pleased we had them for one night, they never returned. The painting lady came in and thanked me for the help. We had an increase of concession sales by 20% so we did good. The movie did great.
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