New Line Cinema’s "The Nativity Story" is being shown only in the morning in some areas, and not at all in others, according to church congregations in the United Kingdom.
The film, which was released on Dec. 8 and advertised with the slogan "Experience the true meaning of Christmas," was being shown just once a day in most venues.
The Rev. Mark Bridgen, the Vicar of St. Bartholomew’s, Wednesbury, in the Diocese of Lichfield, said that the film was being shown at ridiculous times in his area, and that it had been very difficult to arrange a church trip.
At his nearest Showcase cinema in Birmingham, it was playing either very early on Saturday or on weekday mornings.
At the Showcase, Walsall, the movie was not being screened at all.
Other Showcase cinemas around the country, including Manchester, Liverpool, and the Bluewater shopping centre in Kent, had been showing "The Nativity Story" either once in the late morning or not at all. Only in Leeds was the film being shown twice, at 12:40 p.m. and 3:05 p.m.
Bridgen said that he had finally managed to book a late-afternoon screening in Dudley this Saturday.
"There seems to be a huge issue here, as, of course, people will not have gone to see it if it is on at times when they are at school or work," he commented.
A spokeswoman for Entertainment Film, the UK distributor, said that each cinema decided on the times to show the film.
According to a Showcase spokeswoman, the times depended on how the film did in its first week. "We often start by showing a film five times a day or more, but, if people are not going, we reduce that."
Vue Cinemas, a national chain with many cinemas in central and outer London, were also showing the film only during the early part of the day, often once in the morning. The manager at the Vue, Islington, in London, said that times were decided upon based on the initial viewing figures.
"On some showings in the first week, we had only two people, which is why it is only on once a day at 12.10 p.m. right up until Christmas Eve."
In Birmingham, the film had three showings, the latest at 3:50 p.m., on midweek days. In the three days leading up to Christmas, the film will be shown only at 11:30 a.m.
The story was the same at Odeon cinemas, another national chain. But a spokeswoman said that the initial decision about where the film was shown was up to the distributors.
One churchgoer in Colchester, Essex, said that the nearest Odeon showing “The Nativity Story” was 40 miles away.
St Luke’s, Maidstone, which has tied evangelistic efforts with films in the past, said this week that it was not organizing anything for "The Nativity Story." The church had led trips when Mel Gibson’s "The Passion of the Christ" was shown over Easter 2004. Last year, it gave single-parent families 1,000 free tickets for "The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."