A popular Texas movie theater that doesn’t shy from controversy decided to turn a screening of the new “Wonder Woman” movie into a jam-packed celebration with a single rule:
“No boys allowed.”
“Apologies, gentlemen, but we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’ for one special night at the Alamo Ritz. And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it,” Austin movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced Wednesday about the June 6 showing. “Everyone working at this screening — venue staff, projectionist, and culinary team — will be female.”
“So lasso your geeky girlfriends together and grab your tickets to this celebration of one of the most enduring and inspiring characters ever created,” added the announcement, which has been shared on Facebook more than 1,500 times.
The promotion worked and the screening sold out in a little over two hours, according to the Drafthouse, with female fans rushing to buy tickets to the first comic book-inspired film to star a woman since Jennifer Garner in 2005’s “Elektra.”
The screening drew praise from some men, but it also provoked an outpouring of anger from others who flooded the theater’s Facebook page to label the event “sexist”
“Very tacky Alamo,” Facebook user Allan Dale wrote. “I’m all for equality and having a screening specifically stating it is not inclusive to everyone, is against equality. I’m not saying Alamo did this intentionally, but it is still just wrong.”
“It’s sexist and bigoted,” Evan Johnson commented, receiving nearly 40 reactions, more than half of which appeared to be laughing at Johnson’s comment.
“If women are entitled to exclusivity and a sense of togetherness, then so are men,” Greg Martin added. “If you don’t provide the experience people are looking for, others will, and frankly, with that attitude, I’m glad you’re not going to be the ones making that money.”
The commenters drew their own critics.
“Came here to see fragile masculinity and whining, was not disappointed at all,” Isaac Shazbaz Boyles wrote. “Hey Alamo can you do more of these sorts of things? I like laughing at men who are threatened by women getting to have their own lives without constant male presence 24/7.”
The theater’s official Facebook account responded to some of the male critics, echoing the swarm of movie fans who descended on the page to defend the gender-specific screening.
“This has zip to do with equality,” the theater commented. “This is a celebration of a character that’s meant a great deal to many women since 1940.”
Alamo Drafthouse — which was founded in Austin in 1997 — has never shied away from provocative marketing and public political stances that embody the city’s countercultural spirit. Last year, in the midst of a heated national debate about transgender people using public restrooms, the theater’s founder, Tim League, announced plans to build a gender-neutral restroom with all-gender urinals.
“I don’t want to have any ‘men’ or ‘women’ signs in the building,” League said at the time.
He kept his word. When the theater’s latest Austin location opened in March it included gender-neutral toilets, according to the Austin Business Journal.
The flagship Austin location — one of 26 around the nation — embraced the backlash to its women-only screening, noting that the criticism online has been met with a positive response in real life.
“We are very excited to present select, women-only WONDER WOMAN screenings at Alamo Drafthouse,” Morgan Hendrix, Alamo Drafthouse creative manager said in a statement emailed to The Washington Post. “That providing an experience where women truly reign supreme has incurred the wrath of trolls only serves to deepen our belief that we’re doing something right.”
“As a result, we will be expanding this program across the country and inviting women everywhere to join us as we celebrate this iconic superheroine in our theaters,” the statement added, referring to plans to hold women-only screenings in other states.
— Alamo Drafthouse NYC (@AlamoNYC) May 26, 2017
Though women have been consistently featured in superhero roles on screen over the past decade, female protagonists make up a much smaller portion of the top grossing films each year, according to the Center for the Study of Women in Television and Film at San Diego State University.
A recent reported produced by the center found that women comprised 29 percent of protagonists among the top 100 films of 2016, a “historical high” and an increase of seven percentage points from a year earlier.
“However, the percentage of female characters in speaking roles (major and minor) was 32 percent, down 1 percentage point from 2015,” the report, “It’s a Man’s (Celluloid) World,” concluded. “Overall, these results indicate that while audiences were more than twice as likely to see male characters as female characters on screen, females fared better as protagonists and major characters last year.”
Following the enthusiasm of the first sold-out screening, a theater spokesman said organizers have added a second screening in Austin, which has also sold out.
On Facebook, at least, the embittered debate over the female-only party continues:
“Have you ever hosted a men’s only showing of any film?” Bill Fairbrother asked.
“We’ve never done showings where you had to be a man to get in, but we *did* show the Entourage movie a few years ago,” the Draft House’s official account replied.