Alabama drive-in theater owner takes stand against Disney’s latest film


March 17, 2017

After the director of the new live-action “Beauty and the Beast” film announced the addition of a gay character to the script, 95 percent of those polled by Faith Driven Consumer said they were less likely to see the film when it opened March 17.

For Carol Laney, owner of the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in DeKalb County, that answer was no different.

Showing the movie at her theater was a firm “no.”

It was a stance that got her nationwide attention, with articles coming out in the New York Times and The Washington Post, among other news outlets.

Social media firestorm

Laney got thrown into the fire after she announced on Facebook that it was “with great sorrow” that they were choosing not to show “Beauty and the Beast” at the theater.

“If we cannot take our 11-year-old granddaughter and 8-year-old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it,” the post stated. “If I can’t sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it.”

The Facebook page had been removed and at press time remained that way.

The whole controversy started when Bill Condon, director of the live-action “Beauty and the Beast,” announced recently that the new film’s version of LeFou, sidekick to villain Gaston, would be portrayed as gay.

The character, Condon said, “breaks new ground when it comes to LGBT visibility,” and the film will contain an “exclusively gay moment.”

It was following this announcement that Laney posted her decision, and what followed was nothing short of uproarious replies to the Alabama resident’s decision.

But in the face of the hate mail she has received, Laney said she has no regrets. She told the New York Times that for every negative response she gets, she gets 20 or 30 positive ones. And she said she feels like she and her husband made the decision in caution and discernment.

“We respect the choices of others who choose to support other movie theaters by watching this movie,” she wrote in a statement to AL.com. “However, we also hope that you respect our decision. We will be choosing movies that the entire family can watch. This by no means is sending a message of hatred or bigotry; however, we are Christians first and foremost and must adhere to the Bible and its teachings.”

Ken Moses, pastor of Stamp Baptist Church, near Henagar, said the concern over Laney’s decision seems to be coming more from outside the community and even outside the state. He said he hasn’t heard much discussion about it.

Franklin Graham, president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, applauded the Laneys for their decision.

“I wish more businesses would have this kind of character to take a stand for what is right. God bless them,” Graham wrote on Facebook.

International kickback

In other parts of the world, the film also is getting some kickback. Disney pulled the film from theaters in Malaysia after the country’s film censorship board announced that it had cut the “gay moment” from the movie, calling it “inappropriate” for child viewers, according to The Independent. In Russia the film will be shown in its entirety, but only to moviegoers age 16 and older.

For more information about Henagar Drive-In Theatre, visit www.henagardrivein.com. (TAB)

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