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Alamo Drafthouse Founder “Furious” Napoleon Dynamite Canceled

Tim League is founder and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse
Photo by Chris Jackson
Tim League is founder and CEO of the Alamo Drafthouse

A move by the City of Austin to cancel a free outdoor screening of Napoleon Dynamite earlier this month has incensed Alamo Drafthouse founder and CEO Tim League. The Drafthouse sponsored the free screenings in Republic Square Park and used its equipment to display the movies.

“That kind of stuff drives me bananas,” League told KUT News. "I was furious about this."

The Austin Parks Foundation canceled the May 25 screening after protests from disability rights activists over the presence of the word “retarded” in the PG rated movie. In a May 25 post on its Twitter page, the Parks Foundation implied the city would pull its sponsorship, meaning the Parks Foundation would have to pay $2,500 for use of Republic Square Park.

“Obviously, yes, people should be sensitive about the use of that word,” League said. “But it completely misses the entire context of the movie. Just because that word is in the film, doesn’t mean that you should be boycotting this film. It’s just missing the point entirely.”

“I find that offensive,” he said.

League says he hopes to do his own outdoor screening of Napoleon Dynamite “real fast.” The Drafthouse has already scheduled ten free screenings next month of famous Texas movies where they were either filmed or set, as part of its ninth annual RollingRoadshow.

The "R word" is considered hate speech by some disability rights advocates, who would prefer it be shelved along with what are often considered to be other harmful words in the English language, like the "N word" and the "C word". University of Iowa professor Stephen Kuusisto, who has been blind since birth, says the word still stings him when he hears it.

I remember that big red "R" on my back. The memory is a part of both my conscious and my unconscious life.

Following the release of the action comedy, "Tropic Thunder" in 2009, NPR reported on how an energized group of activists have been campaigning to change the cultural status of the word.You can listen to that story here.

What do you think? Should the movie have been canceled?

Nathan Bernier is the transportation reporter at KUT. He covers the big projects that are reshaping how we get around Austin, like the I-35 overhaul, the airport's rapid growth and the multibillion-dollar transit expansion Project Connect. He also focuses on the daily changes that affect how we walk, bike and drive around the city. Got a tip? Email him at Follow him on X @KUTnathan.
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