The Church of Scientology has pressured a Clearwater, FL movie theater into cancelling screenings of director Alex Gibney’s Going Clear: Scientology And The Prison Of Belief scheduled to start next weekend.
The Hollywood Reporter is stating that the Cobb Countryside 12’s cancellation of the film is in response to allegedly receiving “threats from the church, according to sources.”
The Church of Scientology has its headquarters in Clearwater and is notoriously thin-skinned about any public criticism of its secretive activities. Gibney’s documentary, and many critics who gave it a positive review, came under attack when it had its first festival screenings and when it aired on HBO earlier in the year. HBO was a co-producer on the project. However, the notoriously litigious Church did not bring any actual legal action. That lack of action Gibney has previously attributed to the fact that all of the documentary’s allegations were thoroughly vetted by a number of lawyers prior to release.
HBO is re-releasing Going Clear into 20 markets next weekend including New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco. Washington, Miami and other major cities. They are planning on going wider the following weekend.
If one has been following stories surrounding the Church of Scientology over the years, there may not be much new revelations in Going Clear. But where Gibney’s documentary is at its most powerful is with its actual video of Scientology rallies and of the campaign of physical intimidation and harassment that the Church attempted to which it subjected its vocal critics.. The irony here, of course, is that the Church has bullied a theater into not showing a movie which they feel unfairly portrays them as bullies.
Clearwater residents who are interested in seeing the film are in luck as the Woodlands Square 20 in the neighboring town of Olsdmar, some 12 miles from Clearwater, has Going Clear booked for a run starting October 2.
Critical response to Going Clear was strong when the film was first released earlier this year, and it looks as if HBO is trying to position the documentary as an Academy Awards contender with this re-release. If so, the Church of Scientology will almost certainly step-up their pushback on the film. It could be an interesting Fall.