Independent theaters can learn from sexual harassment controversy at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Richardson, Texas, is photographed July 01, 2013. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s CEO apologized after he rehired an employee who had been previously accused, but not charged, with sexual assault.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema in Richardson, Texas, is photographed July 01, 2013. Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s CEO apologized after he rehired an employee who had been previously accused, but not charged, with sexual assault. Special to the Star-Telegram

Last Thursday, the Austin-based festival known as Fantastic Fest started its weeklong festivities of showing genre films to fanboy audiences. Unfortunately, an awkward cloud hangs over the festival, and it’s mostly there thanks to one of its founders, Alamo Drafthouse Cinema founder/CEO Tim League, being involved in a whole lot of drama he could’ve easily avoided.

It all started 11 months ago involving Birth.Movies.Death, a film website owned Alamo Drafthouse, and sexual assault allegations involving its editor.

Shortly after the “Access Hollywood” footage leaked last fall of Donald Trump having a lewd conversation about women, a journalist wrote on Twitter that Devin Faraci, a film writer and editor-in-chief of the website, had allegedly groped her and bragged to his friends about it.

Other women followed suit, recalling their own alleged harassment with Faraci, which prompted him to tweet, “I can only believe you and beg forgiveness for having been so vile.” Faraci eventually resigned, writing, “I will use the coming weeks and months to work on becoming a better person who is, I hope, worthy of the trust and loyalty of my friends and readers.”

Cut to a couple of weeks ago, when news broke that Faraci has been secretly working for Alamo Drafthouse, writing copy for Fantastic Fest’s website. This did not sit well with Film Twitter, who thought they were all done with Faraci nearly a year ago.

You see, Faraci isn’t a beloved figure in the film-critic community – or the film community, for that matter. All you have to do is tweet “Got any bad Faraci stories?” and critics, publicists and even filmmakers will most likely show up with unflattering anecdotes and memories of this guy, who has been described as “a bully and a general unpleasant individual,” according to Pajiba.com, a pop culture website, and has goaded people into committing suicide on social media.

It makes no sense why League, a champion of cinephiles and film nerds everywhere, would low-key rehire such a detested, divisive figure. After all, League is a man who is so opposed to people talking and texting in his theaters, he once made a pre-screening PSA using the voicemail of an irate woman who arrogantly thought she could text.

Alamo Drafthouse Cinema founder and CEO Tim League poses on the red carpet before an advance screening during Fantastic Fest at the Alamo Drafthouse- South Lamar in Austin, Texas in 2014. An awkward cloud hangs over the festival this year, and it’s mostly there thanks to League who’s been involved a whole lot of drama recently. Jack Plunkett Invision/AP

League must have known that people would be upset when they saw Faraci’s byline. Are he and Faraci that close to where League would tarnish his brand and make it look like he condones the actions of a serialsexual harasser?

League wrote on Facebook Sept. 12 that Faraci had “entered recovery” since the allegations were made and that he had rehired him because he “thought it was important to contribute to his recovery process by helping him with some means to earn a living.” (Faraci has never been charged.)

But a day later, League wrote that Faraci had resigned from the company. He added later in the week that he plans to visit staff members at all of the chain’s locations. (One is being built in Raleigh’s Longview Shopping Center on New Bern Avenue and may open by the end of the year).

“I am very sorry,” his letter starts off. “I’ve let so many of you down. There’s a lot of work to do and I’m committed to doing it – this is my immediate focus.”

You know what the sad part is? This isn’t the only recent incident where an arthouse operation has tried to keep sexual-harassment allegations on the DL. Last month, two top employees from the Los Angeles-based, indie-film theater Cinefamily, board vice president Shadie Elnashai and executive director Hadrian Belove, resigned after an anonymous email surfaced alleging that they both harassed several young female employees. This shook up the L.A. film community, even prompting Oscar-winning actress Brie Larson, who co-founded the Women of Cinefamily collective, to post a lengthy response on Twitter:

“The allegations at Cinefamily are upsetting to me personally, both as an advocate for sexual assault survivors and a member of the community. Firstly, I would like to thank the brave survivors who spoke up – I believe you. The responsibility of handling allegations of this nature should never fall on the assaulted. Cinefamily prides itself on being a space of safety and communion – it is time for further action to ensure that.”

It’s downright troubling that these men have been abusing their power, trying to sweep sexual-harassment allegations under the rug, to the point where it’s making their venues – and the arthouse world in general – look bad. I’ve heard people in other cities say that since the Faraci mess broke, they may not deal with their nearby Alamo Drafthouse anymore. I’ve yet to hear anyone in Raleigh say they won’t be attending the Alamo Drafthouse when that eventually opens here.

But let this be a lesson to all the arthouse operators out there: If you have a zero-tolerance policy for texters and talkers, it would be nice if you also had it for sexual harassers who work for you.