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Memphis Theater Cancels ‘Gone With the Wind’ Screening


Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind.”

Turner Classic Movies, via Associated Press

A Memphis movie theater’s announcement that it will discontinue its annual screening of “Gone With the Wind” over concerns that the film is insensitive has prompted a heated discussion online.

The Orpheum theater has shown that 1939 film each of the past 34 years, as part of its classics series. It won 10 Oscars, including one for Hattie McDaniel as best supporting actress for her portrayal of a slave named Mammy. (She became the first black actor to win an Academy Award.) After the film’s screening on Aug. 11 — the same evening as a march in Charlottesville, Va., by white nationalists ahead of the “Unite the Right” rally on Aug. 12 — the theater received complaints online from patrons and commenters, who denounced the film’s portrayal of blacks and its romanticized view of the Old South.

As a result, the theater said it would not screen the film next year. “The recent screening of ‘Gone With the Wind’ at the Orpheum on Friday, Aug. 11, 2017, generated numerous comments,” Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theater Group, said in a statement. “The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them. 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.”

In a recent interview with The Commercial Appeal, a Memphis newspaper, Mr. Batterson said that there had been concerns about the movie before this summer’s screening. “This is something that’s been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home,” he said.

A backlash to the cancellation has since grown online. “Shame on you for canceling ‘GWTW.’ You just insulted every single actor and crew member on this film. You insulted SAG and every institution that has fought for this film to be exhibited since its release in 1939,” one commenter wrote on Facebook.

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