Did Scientology Force Florida Theaters To Drop 'Going Clear'?

Two Florida theaters have allegedly been forced to drop Going Clear: Scientology and the Prison of Belief, the HBO documentary that was hugely critical of Scientology, after huge pressure from the religion.

According to Tampa Bay Times, both Cobb Countryside 12 in Clearwater and AMC Woodlands 20 in Oldsmar, which are located in Pinellas County, decided not to show Going Clear, even though they'd previously erected posters suggesting they would.

It's been speculated that they cancelled these plans because of pressure from Scientologists in Clearwater, which is where the church's spiritual headquarters is based.

Going Clear's director Alex Gibney is adamant that the church pressured these theaters not to have the screenings. This has been disputed by Scientology officials, and an executive for Cobb Theaters tried to downplay the decision.

Gibney, who stated that it was "very important" for Going Clear to air in Clearwater, spoke to Tampa Bay Times about the film being pulled, as he furiously declared, "I find it shocking. Yet, it seems to be consistent with what we know about how far the church will go to keep members from hearing anything negative about the church."

The Hollywood Reporter's sources have reported that threats from the church lead to the film being pulled, while Gibney insisted that he'd heard the same rumors too.

Karin Pouw, a spokeswoman for Scientology, instantly dismissed this speculation, though.

"Like the movie, these stories are fiction and represent yet another shameless publicity stunt about Gibney's movie," she declared. "Naturally, the Church has a lot of friends in Clearwater. Theaters make their own business decisions based on what is best for their audiences. For the truth about Gibney's TV film and the documented falsehoods in it see www.Freedommag.org/going-clear."

Jeremy Welman, a COO with Cobb Theaters, explained that Going Clear was never officially booked with Countryside 12.

"(The booking) was something we were considering doing as a rental," Welman declared, "but we chose not to do it."

Welman suggested that they'd had some complaints regarding Going Clear.

"Like many films, especially ones that could potentially be controversial, we get a lot of email from both sides," Welman admitted. "We have people tell us we must play this film, and we have people tell us how dare you play this film? We play films based on what we thing is the right thing to do."

However, those of you in the area who want to see the film don't have to worry, because AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa Bay have decided to show the film on October 2. Meanwhile, Muvico Palm Harbor 10 have also announced that they are going to show the film on that day too.

[Image via HBO Docs]