While people around the world are protesting and boycotting and continuing attempts to ban the controversial film The Da Vinci Code, it turns out that all they need in order to cancel its exhibition is a stick of chewing gum. That is what shut down screenings at a theater in Princeton, Kentucky last weekend, anyway. A piece of gum somehow -- presumably thrown -- got onto the take-up platter (a giant disc where the film goes after being projected) of a projector running the film and caused a big, sticky mess, halting the film's run from Saturday afternoon through Monday. Only the print of the film was damaged, and the theater was able to (and had to) run RV until they received a new print of The Da Vinci Code on Tuesday.
Although the theater is not looking to investigate the supposed act of vandalism, its owner says that if the guilty party anonymously sends a couple hundred dollars, that all will be forgiven. And he announced that from now on, the projection booth will be locked.
The funny thing about this story is not that the theater had previously kept the projection door unlocked and the projector unwatched (many theaters are this negligent) or that the theater owner is requesting a couple hundred dollars, none of which would fit into any cinema accounting process I'm aware of (perhaps he could throw it to the Jimmy Fund, I guess), but that because of the controversy surrounding the film, the automatic explanation for the incident is vandalism. I applaud the creativity behind the act, if it was indeed criminal, but any plot to destroy the movie could have been done in a number of other simple ways. My suspicion is that the mess was caused accidentally by a theater employee (maybe it fell out of his or her wide-open mouth after being stunned by the film's revelation?), if only because I've worked with quite a few morons in the projection booth in my ten years in the business. Most of the damage done to film prints and projection equipment I've witnessed has been attributable to a careless crew (I'll be the first to admit that I once showed a print of The Italian Job with its reels put together in the wrong order). Anyway, it is probably best that the owner isn't conducting an investigation since singling out a theater employee who chews gum is just as difficult as singling out a Da Vinci protester who doesn't understand the meaning of the word "fiction."