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Posts misrepresent movie schedules to push Jan. 6 conspiracy

January 3, 2022 GMT

CLAIM: Only one film is scheduled to play at many major movie theaters nationwide from Jan. 7-8, and this may be related to a Jan. 6 news conference planned by former President Donald Trump.

AP’S ASSESSMENT: False. The lack of listings in movie theater schedules has nothing to do with any political actions or other conspiracies. The single film — called “The 355” — currently listed this weekend is the only new movie premiering for most theaters, meaning tickets are open for advance sale. However, other titles that previously premiered and are still airing in theaters will be scheduled over the next few days, as is standard practice among most theaters.

THE FACTS: Social media users are misrepresenting advance theater schedules for the second weekend in January to push a baseless theory that they could foreshadow an announcement by Trump on Jan. 6, the anniversary of the violent insurrection in the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The claims originated on the messaging app Telegram in the first days of January, and hinged on the fact that as of the posting date, only one film was listed as showing on Friday, Jan. 7, and Saturday, Jan. 8, across many major markets and theaters.

“Something odd is going on in theaters across the nation on Jan. 7 and Jan. 8,” a widely-shared post on Facebook, Telegram and Twitter stated, adding: “It appears that the only movie that is going to be showing Jan. 7 and Jan. 8, is ‘The 355.’ Check your local listings and see if that is the case in your area. Wonder if this has something to do with the press conference Pres. Trump has scheduled for Jan 6?”

However, the claims are based on a misunderstanding of how most movie theaters compile and publish their schedules.

A spokesperson for Cinemark Theaters, a major chain, told The Associated Press that its showtimes aren’t usually booked for the week until after internal meetings each Monday, leaving the schedule sometimes looking bare until Tuesday.

“You’ll see that on Tuesdays, a lot of showtimes will populate for the subsequent week,” the spokesperson said.

An exception is when theaters allow advance sales for a movie that is set to premiere on a specific date, the spokesperson said. Such is the case with “The 355.”

“For example, ‘The 355’ has its premiere this coming weekend which is why tickets are on sale for that film already on that date,” the spokesperson said.

The 355,” starring Jessica Chastain, Lupita Nyong’o and Diane Kruger, is about a CIA agent who joins forces with a rival German agent when a top-secret weapon falls into the hands of a group of mercenaries, according to the film’s website.

Some social media users also asserted that the movie’s themes supported the false claim that its solo billing was a planned event with political implications.

But Ryan Noonan, public relations director for AMC Theaters, disputed that the scheduling was anything out of the ordinary, confirming Cinemark’s explanation that this weekend’s showtimes reflect normal operations.

“Our weekly movie showtime scheduling is standard operating procedure at AMC and has been in place for years,” Noonan wrote in an email to the AP. “As is always the case, the complete showtime schedules at all AMC locations for the week of Jan. 7-13 will fully populate by Wednesday morning – offering AMC moviegoers a wide variety of entertainment choices.”

Richard Grover, vice president of communications for Regal Cinemas, another leading theater company, also verified the information.

“This is normal practice and our theatres will have a full slate of movies this weekend,” Grover wrote, adding that “The 355” is the only new movie opening this week, but all of the carry over titles, such as the new “Spider-Man” and “Sing 2,” would be scheduled in the coming days.

Trump announced Dec. 21 that he planned to hold a news conference at his Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Jan. 6, according to a statement in which he recirculated since-debunked claims about the 2020 election and the January 2021 riot.

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This is part of AP’s effort to address widely shared misinformation, including work with outside companies and organizations to add factual context to misleading content that is circulating online. Learn more about fact-checking at AP.