LETTER: …additionally, the theater’s policy is to not discriminate against any individuals, groups or organizations that wish to rent the space

To the Editor:
I write as the chair of the board of directors of Ely’s Historic State Theater. The movie “2000 Mules” is being screened this weekend at EHST by a local organization that is renting the theater for their use. Because many people within the community have expressed concern and even upset about this, I would like to clarify the theater’s rental policy, and the particulars of this event.
First of all, the mission of Ely’s Historic State Theater is “to be a cultural hub of film, arts, entertainment, and learning that cultivate a vibrant, healthy community.” Additionally, the theater’s policy is to not discriminate against any individuals, groups or organizations that wish to rent the space. We could not in good faith deny this group’s request to host their event at the theater without violating this nondiscrimination policy. As long as entities are able to meet the theater’s own scheduling requirements, and their events are also not discriminatory, the theater makes its space available. EHST has adopted this policy to ensure equal representation by all individuals, groups, and organizations in the Ely community and surrounding areas.
The group that is renting the theater Saturday morning, outside of EHST’s regular hours of operation so as not to interfere with “clean screen” agreements the theater must maintain with movie distributors, is paying the theater’s standard hourly rental fee. The event organizers have also, of their own accord, secured the public performance license for the film and are responsible for paying those fees. The theater is not receiving any proceeds from the ticket sales beyond the rental fee. The primary goal of the organization renting the space is to break even, not fundraise for any candidate.
The event is non-partisan, as it is legally required to be in order for the candidate for sheriff (a non-partisan office) to be in attendance. According to the organizer, this event is primarily to be a meet-and-greet with the candidates and a chance for people to watch the film. As of this writing, it is uncertain whether a discussion of the movie will take place after the screening (the group organizing the event is firming up their plans as they get closer to the date). The organizer has expressed repeatedly to EHST staff that the event is intended to be open to everyone of all political affiliations (Democrats, Republicans, Independents, etc.), and they have no interest in drumming up controversy.
The EHST board of directors appreciates that some people will disagree with or might be offended by the content of the movie, but the fact that it has played at most major movie chains across the nation (including the Marcus in Duluth) makes it difficult for us to refuse to rent the space for the screening of this film. That would clearly be an act of discrimination or censorship without cause.
It is the position of EHST, as a public resource, to support diversity, equity, and inclusion, which means remaining available to groups, organizations, and individuals who may or may not share the same beliefs as the theater board, management or staff.
EHST is grateful for the high level of interest shown this week in the theater and its rental policies. Any additional input can be addressed to me or to any board member.
Thank you.
David Wigdahl, chair
EHST Board of Directors