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Visualizing Scientology’s latest ‘Going Clear’ public relations disaster


As former Scientology spokesman Mike Rinder pointed out yesterday, Scientology’s attempt to frighten a Clearwater, Florida movie theater out of showing Alex Gibney’s documentary Going Clear only ended up with straight up and vertical expansion: Now two theaters in the area will be showing the movie.

If that doesn’t sum up Scientology PR, we’re not sure what does.

This all began to play out on Friday, and we know you’ve been following it. But we decided to get a visual of the situation, since we’re in the Big Apple and we don’t really know Tampa-area geography all that well.

Gibney’s documentary has had quite an interesting journey. It tells the stories of eight former Scientologists, and your proprietor is also fortunate enough to be included. It premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in Utah in January. Then it had a two-week theatrical run in New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles (where it was held over a third week) in order to qualify the film for Oscar contention.


The HBO-produced documentary then got its first wide opening when it debuted on HBO on Sunday, March 29, and then played numerous times over the next month, and on demand. It quickly became the most watched HBO documentary in a decade. Since then, the documentary has made other openings in countries around the world. But it was delayed for legal reasons in the United Kingdom and Ireland, where it finally played last night on Sky Atlantic. In the meantime, it picked up three Emmy Awards — for best documentary, and Gibney also picked up awards for best writing and best directing.

Now, the film is getting another theatrical run, opening in several cities on Friday. (Meanwhile, you can now pre-order the DVD at Amazon, for shipment October 6.)

It isn’t any wonder that among the select cities chosen for the new theatrical run was Clearwater, the location of one of Scientology’s most important headquarters. But then, that plan ran into a snag. As the Tampa Bay Times pointed out yesterday, the reasons are somewhat disputed, but let’s see where the controversy ended up.

On the map, we’ve marked the location of Scientology’s complex in downtown Clearwater with a red star. Initially, HBO arranged for Going Clear to get a run at Cobb Theatres’ Countryside 12, which we’ve marked with a “1”. (For scale, the distance between the Cobb movie complex and Scientology’s Fort Harrison Hotel in downtown Clearwater is about seven miles.)

According to The Hollywood Reporter, Cobb changed its mind after receiving threats from the church, which Scientology denies. So HBO then arranged to have the movie shown at AMC Woodlands Square 20 in Oldsmar, which we’ve marked with a “2”.

But yesterday, we learned that AMC Woodlands had also dropped out, citing “space” reasons. Well, whatever. What’s more important is that now HBO has arranged viewings at two theaters — Muvico Palm Harber 10 in Palm Harbor, and AMC Veterans 24 in Tampa — which we’ve marked “3” and “4”.

Yes, they’re a little farther away, but not inconvenient for the people in Clearwater. (It’s a car culture down there, and the locals are accustomed to driving a bit for events.)


And of course, besides the number of theaters doubling, the real miscalculation for Scientology has been creating a news story that’s only going to get more people talking about Going Clear. But then this is the idiot regime that took out full page ads about Going Clear in the New York Times and Los Angeles Times before the Sundance premiere which, Gibney pointed out, could only have been more useful to him if they’d included film times.

Where does the bullying of a couple of movie theater chains rank on the all-time Scientology PR-fail list?

We still think this is going to be hard to beat: When Scientology leader David Miscavige learned that the Los Angeles Times was working on a story about him and Tom Cruise in 2005, he tried to convince the paper that there was really no story, and that he and Tom were just a couple of regular guys who liked to hang out. And to help make that point, Miscavige had this photograph sent to the newspaper, which it happily used in its piece about what a couple of weirdos these guys are…


David Miscavige, public relations genius.


Bryan Seymour has questions

Vicki Dunstan, Scientology’s head in Australia, gets a few questions from our man Down Under, Bryan Seymour…

And here’s the full report…



Bonus photos from our tipsters

Kelly Preston is the latest celeb sent to a far-flung locale for fundraising. Check out her fiesta in Mexico City, and with fellow whale Tom Cummins!




We didn’t get a chance to include photos in our book, so we’ve posted them at a dedicated page. Reader Sookie put together a complete index and we’re hosting it here on the website. Copies of the paperback version of ‘The Unbreakable Miss Lovely’ are on sale at Amazon. The Kindle edition is also available, and shipping instantly.

Tony Ortega’s upcoming appearances (and check out the interactive map to our ongoing tour)…

Sept 23: Cleveland, Parma Heights Library, 7pm sponsored by Center for Inquiry – Northeast Ohio

Sept 24: Minneapolis, Grumpy’s Bar & Grill, 2801 Snelling Ave, Roseville, 7 pm, sponsored by Minnesota Atheists

Sept 27: Portland, Friendly House, 1737 NW 26th Ave, 12:45 pm, sponsored by Humanists of Greater Portland

Sept 28: Seattle, Razzi’s Pizzeria, 7 pm, with Seattle Skeptics and Seattle Atheists

Sept 29: Vancouver, BC, Seven Dining Lounge, 7 pm

Oct 23: Sydney, Giant Dwarf Theatre (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 25: Melbourne, venue secured (announcement coming later)

Oct 28: Adelaide, Wheatsheaf Hotel, (with Sen. Nick Xenophon)

Oct 30: Perth

Past dates: Santa Barbara (5/16), Hollywood (5/17), Orange County (5/17), San Diego (5/20), San Francisco (5/22), New York (6/11), Chicago (6/20), Toronto (6/22), Clearwater (6/28), Washington DC (7/12), Hartford (7/14), Denver (7/17), Dallas (7/20), Houston (7/22), San Antonio (7/24), Austin (7/25), Paris (7/29), London (8/4), Boston (8/24), Phoenix (9/15)


Posted by Tony Ortega on September 22, 2015 at 07:00

E-mail your tips and story ideas to tonyo94 AT gmail DOT com or follow us on Twitter. We post behind-the-scenes updates at our Facebook author page. Here at the Bunker we try to have a post up every morning at 7 AM Eastern (Noon GMT), and on some days we post an afternoon story at around 2 PM. After every new story we send out an alert to our e-mail list and our FB page.

Learn about Scientology with our numerous series with experts…

BLOGGING DIANETICS: We read Scientology’s founding text cover to cover with the help of LA attorney and former church member Vance Woodward

UP THE BRIDGE: Claire Headley and Bruce Hines train us as Scientologists

GETTING OUR ETHICS IN: Jefferson Hawkins explains Scientology’s system of justice

SCIENTOLOGY MYTHBUSTING: Historian Jon Atack discusses key Scientology concepts

PZ Myers reads L. Ron Hubbard’s “A History of Man” | Scientology’s Master Spies | Scientology’s Private Dancer
The mystery of the richest Scientologist and his wayward sons | Scientology’s shocking mistreatment of the mentally ill
The Underground Bunker’s Official Theme Song | The Underground Bunker FAQ

Our Guide to Alex Gibney’s film ‘Going Clear,’ and our pages about its principal figures…
Jason Beghe | Tom DeVocht | Sara Goldberg | Paul Haggis | Mark “Marty” Rathbun | Mike Rinder | Spanky Taylor | Hana Whitfield


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