The cinema was not told the interim ban on public exhibition had been lifted and replaced with an R18 rating – instead, Secretary of Internal Affairs posted the decision on social media.
Kathleen Napa-Bergin, whose family owns the cinema, said Internal Affairs did not talk to cinema management and breached its own agreement to respect classifications set by the New Zealand Censor.
“Therefore, whatever classification was set for Rocketman in New Zealand was set as classification for the Cinema,” she said.
She accused Internal Affairs of “hiding” from reality, and not telling the truth about the ban.
Herman had claimed the Empire management pulled the movie voluntarily on hearing of the Censor’s concerns, but Napa-Bergin said that wasn’t true.
After the cinema had a screened the Elton John movie for more than a week, the new senior censor had called and said there had been a public complaint.
“He then asked the Cinema management to ‘pull’ or in plain language ‘to stop’ screening the movie Rocketman,” Napa-Bergin said.
“The cinema did not, as the Secretary for INTAFF said, “choose” to stop screening the movie Rocketman; it was a professional response on the cinema’s part. We were asked to stop screening the movie.”
Rocketman will not be screened again at the Empire cinema and the theatre will not gain from any rewards at the box office sales from the media attention as a result of his movie.
Napa-Bergin said “I think being open and frank about making a mistake and owning it is okay; trying to cover up and put blame on others without getting the right story is irresponsible.”
Representing the LGBTI+ community, Te Tiare Association secretary Valery Wichman welcomed the about-turn from the Secretary of Internal Affairs.
“We were happy that it was not banned or condemned but rated 18,” she said. “This means that our fundamental human rights have been upheld. We can now enjoy another expression of art and a good story.”