A recent screening of Avengers: Infinity War went off the rails for theater-goers in California, after a crazed man decided the Marvel movie was the perfect time and place to start preaching about God. For reasons that aren’t particularly clear, the sermon caused a panic, with some people fleeing the theater in terror.
As The Long Beach Press-Telegram reports, Harkins Mountain Grove 16 in Redlands, California, was the scene of chaos Thursday night. After the Avengers movie ended, moviegoer Susie Arias said, a patron felt the Holy Spirit and decided to start preaching.
“As soon as the movie was over, this guy starts yelling, preaching and talking about repenting from our sins.”
The strange after-credits scene caused a panic and drove theater patrons out of the show.
“When he starts taking about guaranteeing our right to heaven and paying for our sins today, I think that’s when mass hysteria hit and some people started running out.”
— Harkins Theatres (@HarkinsTheatres) March 23, 2016
Mass hysteria indeed. Arias says that she watched people jumping from the upper balcony in an attempt to get away (a surefire way to get a broken ankle – just ask John Wilkes Booth). One patron fainted. Another woman jumped 20 feet and was trampled by panicked patrons trying to get away.
Someone called the cops and reported that shots had been fired. That brought all available units, plus ambulances, to the scene. Police quickly determined that no shots had been fired – but by that point, the damage had already been done.
The man who allegedly caused the ruckus was identified as Michael Ray Webber, 28. As it turns out, he says he preaches all the time at the end of movies – it’s his thing. And as for the supposed hand-waving, he says that he was just trying to show the crowd that he wasn’t armed.
Redlands police, ever diligent, searched the man’s home to make sure he wasn’t a threat. Once they determined that he wasn’t, they arrested him on suspicion of “offensive language likely to cause a violent reaction.” As the old saying goes, you can’t yell “Fire!” in a crowded theater – and apparently, neither can you scream about repentance. At least not in California.
The theater, for its part, gave everyone complimentary tickets to another movie.