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AMC says no to shouting fire in a crowded theater

November 21st, 2010 · 6 Comments · Critical thinking, Urban legend

AMC has killed plans to screen an anti-vaccine group’s paid ads at dozens of theaters over Thanksgiving weekend. The theater giant’s announcement followed a successful protest and online petition started five days ago by Mayo Clinic pediatrician Dr. Robert Jacobson.

After more than 1,000 persons backed Jacobson’s call, an AMC spokesperson left this online message Sunday night: “We are not running the ad now, nor will it run at AMC in the future.”

Dr.  Jacobson’s petition read:

As a pediatrician practicing in Minnesota, I am very concerned that the anti-vaccine group “SafeMinds” has purchased paid advertising in many of your theater’s major markets during the Harry Potter showings over Thanksgiving. As a family-oriented business, you should know that your showing a message calling for pregnant women to avoid the vaccine and for parents to avoid vaccinating their children against influenza is irresponsible and unfounded in science, ethics and good business practices.

I urge you to not permit this misinformation. It’s basically shouting “Fire” in a crowded theatre. Remove this anti-vaccine messages from your theaters. Nearly 100 children died last year in the US from influenza. Influenza vaccines are safe and effective in preventing influenza. There are no data to support the SafeMinds’ claims. Please do not add to that number of deaths by airing this wreckless misinformation.

A fringe anti-vaccine website, Age Of Autism, began soliciting donations for the ads on November 10, and reported that celebrity anti-vaccine activist JennyMcCarthy and two others had already donated $1,500 each.

AMC will not screen an anti-vaccine PSA at dozens of theaters this weekend.

SafeMind’s ill-fated plans called for the 30-second video to be shown at dozens of theaters in Los Angeles, Boston, New York, Atlanta, St. Paul, Chicago and other major markets over the heavily trafficked Thanksgiving weekend. Most, but not all of the theaters are operated by AMC.

It’s unclear whether SafeMinds has actually contracted for the ads, or just assumed that since it had raised funds, the video would be shown. The ad claims, without evidence, that flu vaccines are harmful to pregnant women and babies.

Skepchick has more on the SafeMind ad.

This post by Joseph Albeitz at Science Based Medicine set the record straight on flu vaccines a year ago.

Update:

ABC News cluelessly reports “A new video campaign, running with other previews in movie theaters around nine cities nationwide beginning the day after Thanksgiving, will urge viewers — especially pregnant mothers and children — to “demand” your doctor give you a mercury-free flu vaccine this year.”

The story was filed about 10 hours after the AMC announced the videos would not be screened at its theaters.

Update 2.0

A spokesperson for Regal Entertainment Group just told me there is no record of a vaccine related ad being booked  at any REG theater between now and the end of the year.

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6 responses so far ↓

  • 1 Science Mom // Nov 21, 2010 at 10:09 pm

    I believe Regal Entertainment Group is the other that may be showing the adverts this week. I don’t see that anyone has contacted them, at least in an organised fashion.

  • 2 Liz Ditz // Nov 21, 2010 at 10:15 pm

    This is good news, and it is almost entirely a Twitter campaign. I saw Elyse’s SkepChick post this morning

    http://skepchick.org/blog/2010/11/lets-all-go-to-the-movies-and-save-ourselves-some-lives/ and it has already shown up on the hashtag #vaxfax.

    From there it went viral in various directions, with tweets from @badastronomer @pzmyers and others.

    What happened at 11:31 am (I think EST)? Skept-artist posted this link.

    http://getsatisfaction.com/amc_theatres/topics/remove_the_unfounded_anti_vaccine_message_from_your_ads

    At the time I saw that post, there were about 30 signatures. 3 hours later, there were 300, and now there are over 2000.

    So this is a case where social media (Facebook, Twitter, and a company’s own website) interacted to make a change.

  • 3 Broken Link // Nov 22, 2010 at 5:26 am

    What is really nice about this response is that it shows how really, truly fringe the Age of Autism and Safeminds message is. Scientifically, it’s been debunked, and the public knows it.

  • 4 Sullivan // Nov 22, 2010 at 11:28 am

    “SafeMind’s ill-fated plans called for the 30-second video to be shown at dozens of theaters in Los Angeles….”

    Note that in Los Angeles, children under 3 and pregnant women are not given thimerosal containing vaccines. California passed a law in 2006 prohibiting this.

    This leaves me with the question of why SafeMinds decided to spend their limited funds there. Why make parents scared of vaccines using an argument that has no bearing on Californians?

    Perhaps I answered my own question.

  • 5 Science Mom // Nov 23, 2010 at 12:01 pm

    I’m glad you received a response from Regal, but it sounds a bit weasly. It would be nice if they were more specific as AMC was. Will airing of them just be postponed until after the first of the year? Will franchises be empowered to air them on their own?

  • 6 Autism Blog - Don’t Take the Risk: Get the Facts on SafeMinds « Left Brain/Right Brain // Nov 30, 2010 at 11:00 pm

    […] you might guess from Autism News Beat’s, AMC says no to shouting fire in a crowded theater, AMC movie theaters decided that they would pass on the opportunity to show the SafeMinds […]

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