"Hail Mary," Jean-Luc Godard's controversial film about the birth of Jesus Christ, has been moved by Landmark Theaters from the Westside Pavilion, where its Wednesday night opening attracted Roman Catholic protesters, to the Nuart Theatre in West Los Angeles where it will reopen Sunday.
The film, which was canceled after its Wednesday night screening, also has prompted a critical press release from Roger Mahony, the newly appointed archbishop of Los Angeles, objecting to the producers' lack of sensitivity.
Gary Meyer, Landmark vice president, said that the theater management decided to switch theaters as a safety precaution. Its Wednesday opening in the new shopping mall was met with about 150-200 peaceful protesters who prayed and sang religious songs but kept the ticket lines clear. However, Meyer said, "They caused quite a (pedestrian) traffic jam."
He said that the theater management is not moving the film to keep it out of the mainstream but as a safety precaution. The switch will also increase the seating capacity from 250 to 536.
The film, a retelling of the Nativity through the contemporary prism of Freudian psychology, depicts Mary as a high school basketball player and Joseph as a gas station attendant. Its opening in New York earlier this fall also attracted protests on religious grounds.
A press statement released Thursday by the archbishop, said, in part: "Critics have termed this production a 'serious attempt' at film making. The major issue, however, is the sensitivity, or lack thereof, on the part of those who produced this movie. Whatever their intentions, the producers have managed to cheapen and distort religious views and beliefs held dear by over one-quarter of the population of Los Angeles, and millions throughout the world."
The archibishop also urged theaters not to book the film.
Leading Wednesday night's protest was Jean Sindelar of Canoga Park, a member of St. Joseph the Worker Parish, who said she independently organized the demonstration and intends to continue it when the movie reopens Sunday.
"I think the film is a desecration of the Blessed Mother," Sindelar said. "To portray the Blessed Mother like this is sinful. It's a disgrace. They (film producers) say they are trying to update the story but is this necessary? The Pope came out against the film. If the Holy Father says no; then it's no. If he says that it's wrong, then it's wrong."
Previously placed advertisements for the film, including one in Sunday Calendar, state erroneously that the film is playing at the Westside Pavilion.