National theater chain yanks Latter Days from Salt Lake City
National cinema chain Madstone Theaters has pulled Latter Days, a love story about a gay man who falls in love with a closeted Mormon missionary, from its upcoming engagement in Salt Lake City. The film was to have opened there Friday alongside engagements in New York and Los Angeles. "We are extremely upset that Latter Days currently has no venue to premiere in Salt Lake City," said Raymond Murray, president of TLA Releasing, in a statement. (TLA is the theatrical distributor of Latter Days.) "We picked up the film through our partnership with production company Funny Boy Films, because of writer-director C. Jay Cox's amazing ability to tell a story about a man's struggle in dealing with his sexuality and faith, a subject many gays and lesbians can certainly relate to. Very rarely is a story like this presented in such an entertaining, romantic, funny, and poignant manner." The TLA statement also included a comment from Stephen Macias, entertainment media director for the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation: "The recent actions of Madstone Theatres are reflective of the current climate of intolerance that the gay and lesbian community is encountering. In the specific case of Latter Days, where a character is dealing with his sexuality and faith and the end result is an organized religion's efforts to punish him, the theatre chain's refusal to play this film after booking the film in Salt Lake City is another example of the right wing's efforts to censor our gay and lesbian stories."
In the same statement, filmmaker Cox noted, "At a time when the [Mormon] church is claiming a supposed newfound tolerance for gay members, I am deeply disappointed by such an intolerant stance. For a church whose founder Joseph Smith believed in 'teaching correct principles and letting people govern themselves,' I find it quite sad that they would attempt to take such a choice away from the people of Salt Lake. I truly hope that we will be allowed to screen this movie and give people the opportunity to discuss the issues it raises and to judge its artistic merits for themselves."
While the TLA release referred to alleged threats of intimidation from conservative religious groups, the Salt Lake Tribune reports that Madstone dropped the film for aesthetic reasons. Madstone co-CEO Chip Seelig told the paper that he and members of his staff had seen the film and "we thought it lacked artistic merit. If it has merit, we play it." Seelig pointed to Madstone's booking of the documentary Trembling Before G-d as proof that the company is not frightened of gay and religious themes.