Monday, March 27, 2006


Does Movie Theater Security = Racism?

Will the upcoming film ATL, a coming-of-age story set at a Southside Atlanta skating rink, incite violence at movie theaters? That question is at the center of a controversy some are already labeling a prejudicial and racist act. This last weekend, a memo from W. Mark Crowell, Valor Security Service Perimeter Mall security director, was, reportedly, emailed to seven shopping centers in the Atlanta area, for which Valor provides services, warning, "On March 31, the movie ATL will be released in theaters. A theater manager at one of our properties has alerted the mall team that this movie could cause potential behavior problems. The movie trailer indicates that themes in the movie include moral choices and narcotics trafficking ... Please appropriately prepare your security staffs for the release of this movie." The Hip-Hop themed film, which was given a PG-13 rating by the MPAA, was produced by Warner Bros, who released a statement saying, "ATL celebrates the vibrant culture of the South, particularly the music and energy that emanates from Atlanta. The story follows a group of teenagers as they overcome challenges and discover the importance of friendship, community and personal integrity." So the questions are: Since the action of the film focuses on the lives of black teenagers living in a ghetto of Atlanta, is this memo, in fact, an act of racism? Could this be seen as a public relations "lynching" of the film? Could Valor Security be recognizing an inherent fear in the southern population and taking the opportunity to reap overtime money? Or, is all this just a publicity stunt designed to drum up business for the barely marketed film? Last year, the R-rated film Get Rich or Die Tryin, starring rapper 50 Cent caused similar concerns, prompting the removal of billboards for the film in certain areas prior to the film's release. As if scripted, that was followed by the murder of 30-year-old Shelton Flowers, who was shot and killed in the lobby of a Loews multiplex theater in Homestead, PA, after seeing the film. Get Rich or Die Tryin was subsequently removed from the theater.

Since the memo was sent to mall staff I would assume these are mall theaters. And if you have ever been to a theater in a mall versus a free standing theater then you know that teens (of all ethnic backgrounds) hang out at the mall. Perhaps the stand was more anti-adolescent than anti-african american. They didn't issue security alerts for Tyler Perry's Family Renunion (an african american film) or for Big Momma's House or Dave Chapelle's Block Party, again both draw predominently african american audiences.

I think it has more to do with the subject matter and theaudience than the actors. The draw is for adolescent males who happen to be black. Adolescent males (of any ethnic background) don't always make good decisions when together in large groups. Throw a few females in the mix (which will inevitably be at a mall theater) then you have a recipe for potential posturing.

By the way, this is what the mall pays s security advisory to trouble shoot potential problems. The mall has responsibilities to all of its stores, not just the theater. According the the post the memo read "appropriately prepare your staffs." Bed, Bath and Beyond employees may have no idea what is playing in the mall theater, their security needs to be alerted to larger the average number of roaming teens too.

It would be interesting to look at what security measures have been taken over the past couple of years for movies depicting white inner city adolescents.
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