By Jueseppi B.
By joy ann reid
A Washington D.C. woman says a weekend trip to see the movie, “The Butler” was marred by the presence of police inside the theater.
Tiffany Flowers says she and her boyfriend, Alan Hanson, were attending a screening of the Lee Daniels film in Silver Spring, Maryland Saturday, when the experience turned sour. She said that after waiting in line and having their tickets double validated, with the second ticket taker just ten feet from the first employee to tear their stubs, she and Hanson approached the theater entrance, only to find a police officer directing people’s movements.
Flowers told theGrio the officer “herded everybody to the right, and then around the corner there’s another police officer, then we round the corner and there’s a third police officer.”
She said the uniformed police who remained inside the theater throughout the show were in full uniform, complete with bullet-proof vests, and that she later discovered they were contracted by the Montgomery County Police Department.
And she said the crowd inside the theater was anything but rowdy.
“I’m 35 [years old] and Alan is 38,” she said. “There was not anyone there who would make you think there would be a possible disturbance.”
Flowers said that she was “seething” over the police presence throughout the film, but didn’t immediately say anything to theater personnel. “You don’t want to play the ‘black card,’ so to speak, and you almost don’t want to feel what you’re feeling, but then everyone around me was talking about feeling racially profiled and saying we don’t need the cops [in order] to see an Oprah flick. I turned to a couple next to me asked if they had ever experienced anything like this at the theater and they said no, and the woman was going to speak to management about what she thought was ill treatment.”
Flowers tweeted about the experience on Sunday, and her story drew an immediate and sharp Twitter response. Her tweet that “the almost entirely black audience” watching the film “was subjected to watching the film while armed guards faced the audience. Why?” received more than 400 retweets. She directed another tweet at Oprah Winfrey, who stars in the film alongside Forrest Whitaker, who plays the title role.
She responded to tweeters who expressed outrage, or who said they might night have been able to sit through the film given the police presence: “my blood was boiling.”
Flowers told theGrio she decided to contact the theater on Sunday, and spoke to Akiem Spicer, the manager on duty, who she said the theater uses police “crowd control” when they believe a movie will have a big opening. She said she asked Spicer whether police officers were used for the opening of the Matt Damon film “Elysium” last weekend and was told no. She said she asked Spicer what the last film to have similar “crowd control” was, and was told, “I think it was ‘Harry Potter.’”
TheGrio spoke with Spicer on Sunday by telephone. He said Regal Cinemas had instructed employees not to talk to the media. “We cannot speak for the entire company as agents of this location,” he said. Asked whether Regal Cinemas sets policy for the presence of police inside the theater at the corporate level, as opposed to individual theater managers doing so, he said the corporate office does not. Spicer said he was not the manager on duty Saturday night, and referred media questions to the company’s media hotline, which was answered by a recording on Sunday. Spicer said the public’s questions or concerns about the policy were being directed to a different hotline number, 1-877-Tell-Reg.
Regal Cinemas is owned by Regal Entertainment Group, based in Knoxville, Tennessee. TheGrio attempted to reach the corporate office on Sunday but got a recording. Attempts to reach the general manager of the Silver Spring theater, Michael Fletcher, were also unsuccessful.
“The Butler” is based on the life of Eugene Allen, who worked as a butler at the White House for 34 years, through eight presidential administrations.
As for Flowers, who works as a union organizer, she has vowed not to let the matter drop, noting the swift response on social media. She made it clear that she wants Regal to respond.
“If this was an isolated incident and it didn’t speak to the core of what people are feeling in the post Trayvon [Martin] era it wouldn’t be a problem,” she said. “But we’re constantly being treated as second-class citizens and we’re sick of it.”
Read the Storify of Tiffany’s story below, and follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @TheReidReport.
- Lee Daniels’ The Butler: Lifting The Veil On Black Life (freshwaddabrooks.com)
- UPDATE 1-Oprah’s ‘Butler’ cleans up with $25 million at box office – Reuters (in.reuters.com)
- Many Questions Surrounding Movie Theater’s Posting of Armed Guards Inside Screening of “The Butler” (thesterlingroad.com)
Filed under: "BARACK" The Vote, 2014 Mid Term Elections, Bad News, Black History, Breaking News, Bullying, Causes, Celebrity, Entertainment, Event, Injustice, Movies, News, Police Brutality, Race, Racism, Stories, Tweets Tagged: | Butler, Lee Daniels, Michael Fletcher, Montgomery County Police Department, Oprah Winfrey, Regal Cinemas, Regal Entertainment Group, Twitter