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Britain’s redheads offered free movie tickets to dodge extreme heat

An Instagram post from Showcase Cinemas read ‘free tickets for redheads on the hottest days ever’

A woman with red hair sits on a bus in Britain. (Kypros/Getty Images)

LONDON — As temperatures soar to dangerous heights across Britain this week, one movie theater chain is offering shelter from the sun to one potentially vulnerable group: redheads.

“Free tickets for redheads on the hottest days ever,” read an Instagram post from Showcase Cinemas last week. It prompted many Britons to tag their flame-haired friends and family members in the comments section so they would not miss out on the offer to cool off in an air-conditioned venue amid the national emergency.

The offer, for redheads only, will run from Monday to Tuesday, when temperatures are expected to hit 40 degrees Celsius, which is 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Research has found that people with pale skin, freckles and red hair are more at risk of developing skin cancer due to their genes, although heat of this scale is dangerous for anyone. Hundreds of people have died in recent days as a punishing heat wave sweeps Britain, France, Spain and Portugal.

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Unlike in the United States, many locations and homes in Britain do not have air conditioning. Most cinemas, however, do. “Since redheads are often more vulnerable than most to the sun’s rays, we’re giving them shelter from the sun inside our fully air conditioned cinema screens,” Showcase said in a statement. The company told The Washington Post that it was looking forward to seeing “how many redheads take us up on the opportunity.”

For the first time on record, red “extreme” heat warnings are in place in London and across parts of Britain, a country where infrastructure is not built for intense heat waves. The heat wave has also sparked wildfires in Europe. Experts say the extreme weather is yet another reminder of human-caused climate change, with some warning that future summers will only get worse if the world does not work to combat the crisis.

On social media, many hailed the company’s idea as a positive way to help during a heat and cost-of-living crisis, although some branded the initiative “offensive” to the redhead community, saying it unfairly singles out this group.

Lucy McCollum, a 29-year-old from Sheffield who describes herself as “happily ginger” and has a baby boy who also has red hair, said the offer would help not only those struggling with the heat, but also those struggling financially.

Annual inflation in Britain hit a 40-year high of 9 percent earlier this year, as the price of food and energy soared — a result of Brexit, tax hikes and the coronavirus pandemic. “With the cost-of-living crisis, you’ve got to take what you can get on the entertainment front,” McCollum said.

In Britain, a trip to the cinema is usually expensive — especially if one wants snacks and a recliner chair. General admission tickets for adults cost around 12 pounds ($14), although the price can vary depending on the type of film and selected comfort level. Some tickets sell for up to 23 pounds per person ($27). Although the offer is tempting, McCollum said, she won’t be able to take advantage of it because of her job as a teacher.

Others didn’t seem to like the attention. Some posts on social media noted that redheads can often be bullied at school for their rarer hair coloring — and that the offer may ostracize the community further.

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Sarah Jackson — a 27-year-old who goes by “gingerrcurls” on Instagram and who was bullied as a child for what she called her “frizzy ginger hair” — said that she thought the chain’s offer was “hilarious” and that she would have taken the company up on it if a movie theater were closer to her house.

“I am constantly joking how I, as a ginger, cannot stand summer because of the heat, so when I saw the Showcase was offering free tickets for redheads during the current heat wave I immediately shared it with my friends and boyfriend,” said Jackson. She has accumulated thousands of followers online, notably by posting about techniques that help people manage curly hair and products for people with pale skin and warmer hair tones.

The offer also led some who were once redheaded but are now losing their hair to question whether they were eligible for a free ticket. “Does a ginger beard count?” wrote one person. Others debated how strict the movie theater might be — or whether they would take a “strawberry blonde.”

Luke Young, 31, from Peterborough, a city in the east of England, was one of those pondering his redheaded roots. Young told The Post that he did not identify as a full redhead, instead describing himself as “fair-skinned” with a beard the color of a “Moroccan sunset.” The idea is “good marketing,” he said. “A free ticket is a free ticket.”