The Orpheum Theatre in Memphis, Tennessee has been showing Gone with the Wind at its summer film festival for 34 years, but not anymore.
The theater announced that it is removing Gone with the Wind, which is in the top 10 of the American Film Institute’s list of 100 greatest American films, and is preserved in the Library of Congress' National Film Registry, from its roster after complaints that the film is racially “insensitive.”
The movie is based on Margaret Mitchell's 1936 novel and is considered a classic by many, especially in the South. As Town and Country reports, a 2014 Harris Poll said the book was one of America's all-time favorites, second only to the Bible. The movie earned nine Academy Awards, including the first-ever for an African American actor: Hattie McDaniel won Best Supporting Actress. However, McDaniel and other black actors were not allowed to attend the film's premiere due to segregation laws at the time.
Gone With the Wind has been criticized over the years for romanticizing the South during the Civil War, as well as for its depictions of slavery. After the Orpheum screened the film on August 11th, several people complained about its inclusion in the summer series, particularly after the events in Charlottesville, Va. That’s when the theater made the decision to cut the picture from next year's summer series. Brett Batterson, president of the Orpheum Theatre Group, wrote in a statement:
"The Orpheum appreciates feedback on its programming from all members of the mid-south community. The recent screening of Gone With the Wind at the Orpheum on Friday, August 11, 2017, generated numerous comments. The Orpheum carefully reviewed all of them ... As an organization whose stated mission is to 'entertain, educate and enlighten the communities it serves,' the Orpheum cannot show a film that is insensitive to a large segment of its local population."
"This is something that's been questioned every year, but the social media storm this year really brought it home," Batterson told the Commercial Appeal. "This is about the Orpheum wanting to be inclusive and welcoming to all of Memphis." The population of Memphis is about 63 percent African American according to AL.com.
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Batterson also said that the film simply didn’t attract as many fans as it has in the past, claiming its appeal had “leveled off.” Turns out that like Rhett Butler, some people really do give a damn about the movie. The theater’s decision has been controversial with some Facebook commenters praising The Orpheum's choice, while others have called the move “ridiculous”