“Wonder Woman” opened with a big bang last weekend, dominating the box office with an impressive and record-breaking $103.3 million debut, and effectively breathing new life into the faltering DC cinematic universe. But before the film even hit theaters, it began to kick up controversy when indie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse announced that they would be holding special all-female screenings of the film.
The women-only screenings were scheduled after the film’s June 2 premiere date, and according to Alamo Drafthouse’s announcement, they would be open to anyone who identified as female. The screenings would also be completely staffed by women, including the projectionists and culinary staff.
Almost instantly, there was outrage over the decision, with men angrily declaring the screenings “sexist” and discriminatory, and wondering how women would react to all-male screenings of other superhero films.
Stephen Clark, an attorney and law professor from Albany who specializes in sexual orientation and employment law, filed a legal complaint with Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office, which, according to The Statesman, states that Austin’s city code does not allow “public accommodation” to limit its services on the basis of gender or other factors like race and sexual orientation.
But on Sunday at the Alamo Drafthouse’s Brooklyn, NY location, there wasn’t any indication of the raging online debate. Instead, women and girls came out in full force, decked out in Wonder Woman t-shirts, costumes and accessories to see their first big female-led superhero movie in years, and the first helmed by a female director. Women were finally the focus, both on the big screen and off.
Molly Freeman, an associate editor at Screen Rant, attended the screening at Alamo NYC, and noted that while she personally didn’t see any men slipping into the theater, there was an introduction before the film that stressed that the event was for “women and their allies,” thus ensuring that there was an inclusive feel to the event.
But for Freeman, this wasn’t the focus. Instead, it was about experiencing the film in a supportive environment. “It was a really amazing and special experience to watch ‘Wonder Woman’ with a theater full of women,” Freeman said. “The movie itself is inspiring and to be able to laugh and cheer with everyone else in attendance made it one of my favorite movie experiences.”
Freeman’s experience is one that was shared by women across the country, as the Alamo Drafthouse chain rolled out numerous “women-only” screenings across the theater franchise. Amelia E. attended one of the events being held at the Sloans Lake Alamo Drafthouse, in Denver, Colorado, and described the atmosphere going into the film. “All the ladies there were so, so hyped about what was happening,” she said. “When a staff member came in, they said, ‘Welcome to Themyscria’ and the crowd lost their minds. The theater burst into cheers and applause so many times during the film.”
Much like Molly Freeman in New York, Amelia counted the women-only screening as one of her “favorite movie experiences to date.” But the screening also provided a safe space for Amelia, free from the exhausting burden of justifying her interest in superhero movies. “Every single time I go to a superhero movie, some dudebro leans over to explain the hero we’re about to see. That’s no hyperbole; every single time,” she said. “Being able to sit down and enjoy such a powerful film without all of that outside gatekeeper nonsense was so wonderful.”
The internet rage over the screenings did trickle into Kayleigh Hughes experience at the Alamo Drafthouse Ritz location in Austin, TX. While Hughes enjoyed how empowering the event was, she was conscious of the debate going on about the screening and how it impacted her experience.
“It felt like more of an event due to the extreme public reaction,” Hughes said. “The Drafthouse has hosts for all its special events, and the host for this one was really excited, and really funny and sincere when talking about what the past two weeks had been like for her, fielding emails and phone calls and comments. And that made it feel much more real and significant. None of us wanted this to be an enormous media spectacle. We just wanted to see a movie. My friend bought our tickets as soon as they went on sale, and then the hubbub started.”
Hughes contextualized the outrage, comparing it to the experiences women have had over the years. “Honestly, I had been very anxious leading up to the screening because I was afraid something bad would happen during it. It’s so sad that this thing that was supposed to be fun and heartwarming and inspiring for non-cis-male people was so loathed by such volatile people that I considered not even going,” she said. “There were no big incidents though, thank god. But it was interesting to think about that compared to all the times throughout history that women have been barred from important political and social spheres as standard practice or law (versus one showing of a movie playing in every theater in America.)”
She added, “There’s even a scene in ‘Wonder Woman’ where disgruntled male politicians are upset Diana walked into their meeting, because as a woman she isn’t allowed.”
While the future of these kinds of special screenings might hinge on the outcome of the legal complaint that was filed against Alamo Drafthouse, it’s clear that they were incredibly important to the women who attended them. The women-only screenings gave “Wonder Woman” fans a chance to enjoy their superhero without having to justify their interest or prattle off the comic book storylines they’ve consumed.
Considering the huge box office numbers, it seems a handful of these screenings hardly kept male fans from enjoying the film either.