The United Kingdom’s largest cinema chains have refused to run a new ad commissioned by the Church of England promoting prayer ahead of screenings of Star Wars: The Force Awakens this winter.
The theater chains Odeon Cinemas Group, Vue Entertainment and Cineworld will not run the Church’s “Just Pray” ad ahead of screenings of the highly-anticipated film, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
The new ad is part of the larger “Just Pray” campaign by the Church of England to promote the concept of prayer, with individuals in the ad reciting the Lord’s Prayer in various everyday situations.
“The prospect of a multi-generational cultural event offered by the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens on 18 December — a week before Christmas Day — was too good an opportunity to miss and we are bewildered by the decision of the cinemas,” Church of England communications director Rev. Arun Arora said in a statement.
“The Lord’s Prayer is prayed by billions of people across the globe every day and in this country has been part of everyday life for centuries. Prayer permeates every aspect of our culture from pop songs and requiems to daily assemblies and national commemorations. For millions of people in the United Kingdom, prayer is a constant part of their lives whether as part thanksgiving and praise, or as a companion through their darkest hours.
“In one way the decision of the cinemas is just plain silly but the fact that they have insisted upon it makes it rather chilling in terms of limiting free speech. There is still time for the cinemas to change their mind and we would certainly welcome that.”
In a statement issued on Twitter Sunday, Digital Cinema Media, which sells advertising space for the aforementioned theater chains, said it has a policy of not accepting “political or religious” advertising for sale in theaters.
“Some advertisements – unintentionally or otherwise – could cause offence to those of differing political persuasions, as well as to those of differing faiths and indeed of no faith,” the company said in a statement. “In this regard DCM treats all political or religious beliefs equally.”
The new Star Wars film, out December 17, in the U.K., has already sold more than $50 million worth of pre-sale tickets. If estimates hold, it could become the most profitable movie of all time.