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Delay in Showing 'Poetic Justice'

August 05, 1993

* Rita Walters and the rest of the Los Angeles City Council have resolved that Cineplex Odeon Corp.'s decision not to show "Poetic Justice" on its opening weekend "shows an extreme lack of sensitivity and should be protested" (July 28). Fine, protest this decision at the box office by purchasing a ticket at a theater chain that does screen "Poetic Justice." Cineplex Odeon is a private enterprise, and is free to show whatever movies its management chooses for whatever reasons they deem economically viable.

This City Council should spend time dealing with the issues that really matter. What's next--a City Movie Quota Board, assigned the task of making sure that each multiplex theater in L.A. screens films which are in direct proportion to the ethnic makeup of the city? Oops, I think I just created a new bureaucracy. Will Rita Walters rally the council to action the next time an Asian film is denied access to the marketplace? I doubt it. Now I know how the council spends its days--at the movies!



* As African-Americans, we were greatly offended by Cineplex's decision not to show "Poetic Justice" at the Universal City complex because it did not want "that type of audience" (black) at the theater next to the CityWalk at Universal.

In light of the actions of the preceding week and the skinhead controversy, this was particularly displeasing. The message was simple; yes, black teens citywide may want to go to the largest movie theater complex in the nation but they are not wanted, according to Cineplex management.

To use a much used cliche, can't we all get along? After all, the movie is roughly two hours. Surely we could tolerate one another for at least that long.



Los Angeles

* In response to "Translating a Universal Message," Commentary, July 28:

Karen Grisby Bates should get out of her ivory tower and go to CityWalk more often. A quick glance at the crowd would show her that her conception of the place is way off base. CityWalk's upscale clientele is as multicultural as L.A. itself.

Cineplex Odeon's decision not to premiere a movie that stars one of the most popular "gangsta rappers" at a theater well-known as a gang powder keg may not have been about segregation of one race. The decision, Ms. Bates' worn-out logic aside, may legitimately have been about ensuring the safety of customers of all races--and unlike Ms. Bates, I don't mean just black and white.



* Bates was correct in her criticism of Universal and the Cineplex Odeon complex for their delay in the opening of "Poetic Justice." While it is true that Universal's acts were despicable, there is an underlying issue that Bates merely alluded to: " . . . it's just as racist for the studios to continue to give us one-dimensional visions of people they know nothing about."

Throughout this century, Hollywood has degraded the image of African-Americans. In the face of recent pressure, movie moguls have cleverly permitted black producers to step into their shoes and thereby blunt the cry of racism.

What African-Americans had better come to understand is that as long as we sit passively by, or worse yet, applaud while young, often barely literate, black producers depict us to the world as thugs, prostitutes, drug dealers and foul-mouth idiots--in short, as the "menace to society"--we should come to expect not only Universal, but also everyone else, to fear our presence in civilized gatherings.



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