DALLAS (ABP) — After initially refusing to show a 30-second advertisement produced by the Baptist General Convention of Texas because it was “too dark,” AMC Theatres tentatively have agreed to show a modified version of the clip.
On Feb. 4, BGCT officials accepted AMC's offer to change some of the language in the pre-movie commercial in exchange for the theater's playing the advertisement. AMC still must approve the final product.
Rick King, spokesman for AMC Entertainment Inc., said the company realized there was a misunderstanding between the parties about each side's willingness to compromise. Once that issue was cleared up, the two sides agreed to put a slightly altered clip on 133 AMC screens in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex starting Feb. 20.
Meanwhile, another theater chain — Regal Entertainment Group — is airing the advertisement in its unaltered state on 190 screens in Houston, Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio.
The original commercial showed a 30-something male who says, “Want to see the most scandalous story ever? It's full of betrayal, sin, adultery, greed, envy, weakness, poverty, torture, murder, redemption.” Then a narrator says, “Now playing at a Baptist church near you.”
As the actor says his lines, the words “betrayal,” “sin,” “adultery” and so forth appear in large white letters against a black background. The scene shifts back to a close up of the man when he says “redemption.” As the narrator speaks, the BGCT web address is given.
The version that will play on AMC screens will replace the words “adultery,” “torture” and “murder” with “deceit,” “anger” and “fear.” The commercial will comply with other AMC guidelines that do not allow religious symbols, the word “God” or quotations of Scripture.
In some theaters that are not equipped to play the commercial, AMC and Regal will show a slide advertisement that reads, “What's the most scandalous story ever? Find out at a Baptist church near you,” and provides the BGCT web address and convention name. The initially controversial words as well as the word “redemption” can be seen faintly in the slide's background.
The convention's website will provide a church locator to help moviegoers find a Baptist church near them.
The compromise allows the BGGCT to deliver its intended message while complying with AMC's guidelines, said BGCT spokesperson Becky Bridges.
“I'm grateful,” she said. “The most important word is 'redemption.' That's the message.”
The commercial is designed to capitalize on a heightened interest in spiritual matters with Mel Gibson's upcoming film “The Passion of the Christ,” which opens Feb. 25, and best-selling books like “The DaVinci Code,” Bridges said.
“People are talking about culture,” Bridges said. “They're talking about faith. They're talking about the movie. Specifically, they're talking about Jesus.”
Bridges admitted the commercial is not the typical religious advertisement, but it needed to be different to reach moviegoers. “It has to be a little edgy,” she said. “It is a movie theater. If it were real fluffy, I'm not sure it would have any impact. It would come across as insincere.”
Originally, AMC decided not to show the advertisement not because of the religious content, but because it carried too many negative connotations that are not appropriate for younger viewers, King said. Cinema advertisements must be shown on all screens in an AMC theater — including those playing “G”-rated movies — or none at all, according to company policy.
The issue became increasingly public during the week prior to the agreement, as more and more media outlets nationwide got wind of the situation. Many aired the advertisement. The BGCT website has received comments on both sides of the discussion. That was not the intended purpose, but media have relayed the message of redemption, Bridges noted. “We were trying to engage people in a conversation about Jesus.”
To view the clip and slide, visit www.bgct.org/passion.