On April 4, Alamo Drafthouse and a team of 90 other indie movie theaters will be screening the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 starring John Hurt as a protest against the presidency of Donald Trump.
The date was chosen specifically as it’s the same day that Winston Smith, the lead character in 1984, begins to write a diary chronicling the abuses of his oppressive government. Cinemagoers will able to catch a viewing in a total of 79 cities in 34 states. A portion of the proceeds will go to local charities or future educational screening projects.
A group statement released by the collective of theater owners explains why they feel that the film and the book it is based on are more relevant now than ever.
“George’s novel begins with the sentence, ‘It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen.’ Less than one month into the new presidential administration, theater owners collectively believe the clock is already striking thirteen. Orwell’s portrait of a government that manufactures their own facts, demands total obedience, and demonizes foreign enemies, has never been timelier.”
Most of the theaters participating are independent ventures, with six Alamo Drafthouse locations from Kansas City to New York City making the biggest offering. All of them are united in a common anti-Trump message that condemns the chilling effect they believe the new administration will have on the arts, especially in the face of reports about cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts and PBS.
Apart from these blows to funding, the statement also echoed Meryl Streep’s Golden Globes speech by highlighting another element central to great movies that they feel is under attack: Empathy for other people.
“The endeavor encourages theaters to take a stand for our most basic values: freedom of speech, respect for our fellow human beings, and the simple truth that there are no such things as ‘alternative facts.’… Through nationwide participation and strength in numbers, these screenings are intended to galvanize people at the crossroads of cinema and community, and bring us together to foster communication and resistance against current efforts to undermine the most basic tenets of our society.”
Of course, the use of references to George Orwell’s 1984 began long before Donald Trump ascended to the White House. Recently, Ted Cruz accused Barack Obama of exercising some of the tactics of the book’s villains when the Orlando shooter’s pledge to ISIS was edited from 911 calls, reported CNN.
Also during Obama’s presidency, “I was born in 1984, I refuse to die in 1984” was one of most iconic protest signs carried during the blowout over Edward Snowden’s revelations of the extent of the National Security Agency’s surveillance programs. Sales of the book also spiked then. Snowden himself later said that the novel was actually less extreme than the blurred boundaries of government spying that the public deals with today.
“The types of collection in  — microphones and video cameras, TVs that watch us — are nothing compared to what we have available today…. We have sensors in our pockets that track us everywhere we go. Think about what this means for the privacy of the average person.”
— Oakland Privacy (@OaklandPrivacy) February 12, 2014
George W. Bush was also subject to Orwellian comparisons. Soon after Republican strategist Karl Rove commented that as an empire “America creates its own reality,” former Vice President Al Gore accused the administration of taking a page from the novel.
“They have taken us much farther down the road toward an intrusive, Big Brother-style government — toward the dangers prophesied by George Orwell in his book 1984 — than anyone ever thought would be possible in the United States of America.”
Dystopian fiction in general has taken off since Trump’s ascension to the White House. George has stayed stubbornly in the top 10 of both Amazon.com’s physical and Kindle bestseller lists for months with 1984. Orwell is closely followed by some of his future-wary counterparts like Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World and Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. The latter book is set to debut as a Hulu miniseries starring Mad Men‘s Elisabeth Moss, Alexis Bledel and Joseph Fiennes on April 26. Atwood, the only surviving author of the three, attributed the uptick in sales to Trump’s rise.
“We think [of] progress being a straight line forever upwards. But it never has been so, you can think you are being a liberal democracy but then bang you’re Hitler’s Germany, that can happen very suddenly.”
Indie film has long had an overtly political slant, and Alamo Drafthouse is no different. The Austin, Texas-based theater chain’s top executive Tim League formed a film distribution group just as the presidential primary campaigns were in full swing at the end of 2015 with the purpose of releasing Michael Moore’s anti-U.S. imperialism documentary Where To Invade Next. The chain also screened Moore’s pre-election doc Trumpland.
“Together with Michael Moore and his extraordinary new film we hope to remind Americans they have the inalienable right to laugh, especially in an election year.”
Alamo Drafthouse also played the U.S. presidential debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton to three sold-out theaters last year. The crowd was made up of “predominantly Clinton supporters,” reported The Austin Statesman, who cheered along as the unsuccessful Democratic candidate grew increasingly sharp in her criticisms toward her opponent. In addition to the chain’s signature cocktails, they also added some new drinks to the menu, including one called the Canadian Passport.
You can view a full list of where you can head to see the movie adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984 on April 4 at Alamo Drafthouse or another indie theater near you.
[Featured Image by Mario Tama/Getty Images]