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Backers of controversial men’s rights film ‘The Red Pill’ are hoping to screen it in a public hall or community centre after being knocked back by several theatres in Melbourne.

They also hope to screen the film in Sydney and Brisbane.

Men’s Right’s Australia’, which helped finance the film by US director Cassie Jaye, was left searching for a venue after Palace Cinemas axed a planned screening following a fierce public backlash that included a petition signed by more than 2300 people.

Opponents have described the film, which takes a sympathetic view of men’s rights issues, as “misogynistic propaganda”.

Adrian Johnson, 28, of ‘Men’s Right’s Australia’, told The Citizen that the event would still go ahead as planned on November 6, saying: “It’s most likely the film will end up at a community centre, town hall or school hall.”

He said the group had approached dozens of cinemas but had been unable to find one willing to screen the film.

Ms Jaye painted a similar picture in an email exchange: “All the theatres contacted have declined screening ‘The Red Pill’, saying that they ‘don’t want to invite controversy’.”

She said venues including Latrobe University had been sounded out, but all had declined. Ms Jaye had reached out personally to some of the groups.

“The film does not have to screen in an official movie theatre. It can screen on a campus or at any community space with accommodation to project a film.”

The proposed screening had ignited fierce exchanges on social media as well as rival petitions, with Palace Cinemas caught in the crossfire. Its own Facebook page was swamped with comments, many accusing the cinema chain of compromising free speech after it axed the screening. ‘Men’s Rights Melbourne’ described the furore of the past 24 hours as a case of “fire fighting” in the midst of a vitriolic attack.

A 2370-strong petition condemning the film convinced Palace Cinemas on Tuesday to withdraw approval for the screening that was scheduled for a 70-seat theatre at the group’s Kino Cinema in Melbourne’s CBD.

Caroline Whiteway, the chain’s publicity manager, said the group was standing by its decision. “We support freedom of speech and reserve the right to allow private venue hire of our cinemas to a broad cross-section of groups. However . . .  the decision was made and will not be overturned.”

Supporters of the film have encouraged other disgruntled advocates to give the cinema one star on its Facebook account, which now has nearly 1000 reviews, the majority of which are in direct response to the controversy.  

Mr Johnson said he had been overwhelmed by the response of supporters of the film.

“There has been an insane amount of people contacting ‘Men’s Rights Australia’ in the last 48 hours,” he said. “We are now looking at organising a Sydney event . . . and Brisbane, too.” 

Ms Jaye told The Citizen: “I don’t know why the Melbourne movie theatres are putting more value on the first petition to cancel the event. I still have hope that one Melbourne theatre will take a stand for free speech.” 

“I don’t know why the Melbourne movie theatres are putting more value on the first petition to cancel the event. I still have hope that one Melbourne theatre will take a stand for free speech.” — Cassie Jaye, director ‘The Red Pill’

The film, screened earlier this month in the US, has received mixed reviews. The Los Angeles Times said the film “exacerbates the divide” between men’s and women’s rights activists as filmmaker Ms Jaye “ultimately twists herself in knots to justify the movement’s misogynist rhetoric.”

The ‘Village Voice’ called Ms Jaye a “propagandist” and quoted Paul Elam, the film’s leading voice, as saying: “Should I be called to sit on a jury for a rape trial, I vow publicly to vote not guilty, even in the face of overwhelming evidence that the charges are true.” 

Much of the film’s controversy comes from charges that the film was funded by the men’s rights movement. Ms Jaye lost initial funding for her film when it became clear that it was likely supportive of the men’s rights movement. 

Ms Jaye relaunched her project on Kickstarter and was subsequently supported by ‘Breitbart’, the conservative US news and commentary website, and Milo Yiannopoulos, a vocal internet celebrity known for his anti-feminist views.

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