Why Madonna Was Banned From an Entire Movie Theater Chain


Madonna has built her nearly 50-year career by using controversy to drive attention to her music. From rolling around on stage at the first-ever Video Music Awards in 1984 to her 1992 coffee table book Sex to singing from a cross on one of her tours, the pop star has thrived on pushing boundaries and buttons. But sometimes, the singer's refusal to obey societal norms works against her. A decade ago, a popular theater chain issued a lifetime ban against Madonna, and—as far as we know—that ban still stands. Read on to find out what the now 64-year-old celebrity did to annoy other moviegoers so severely that she's never been welcomed back.

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The theater she was visiting is dead serious about texting.
Rodin Eckenroth/Getty Images

No one likes it when people text in theaters. It's bright, it beeps, it vibrates, and it disturbs the movie-going experience. It is, in short, generally considered rude. However, most theater chains don't actually do anything about the infraction other than beg patrons to put their phones away.

That's not the case at hip theater chain Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, however. Their stance on disturbances is to give offenders the boot. "We think our guests deserve the best possible cinematic experience, so we have a no-tolerance talking or texting policy," Alamo's policy reads. "After one warning, disruptive guests will be kicked out of the theater without a refund."

As the chain's founder Tim League wrote in a 2011 blog post, they're serious about it. After one unhappy, kicked-out patron left an angry voicemail stating her displeasure, Alamo turned it into a funny pre-show PSA to other would-be texters.

Madonna was in the audience for a festival screening of 12 Years a Slave.
Ben A. Pruchnie/Getty Images for BFI

Like many celebrities, Madonna has been a guest at film festivals, and not just for her own work as an actor or director. Back in 2013, she was in the audience at a New York Film Festival screening of director Steve McQueen's 12 Years a Slave. The historical drama stars Chiwetel Ejiofor as Solomon Northup, a free Black man living in New York in the 1840s, who is kidnapped and sold back into slavery. Based on the 1853 memoir of the same name, the film ended up winning three Oscars: Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Supporting Actress for Lupita Nyong'o, and Best Picture.

She was reportedly texting throughout the film.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images for GLAAD

After the screening, film critic Charles Taylor posted on Facebook (as reported by The Hollywood Reporter) an account from someone he knew who claimed to have been sitting behind "a mysterious blonde in black lace gloves who wouldn't stop texting on her Blackberry throughout the first half of the movie." The other audience member went on to say that when a woman sitting next to them "tapped her on the shoulder and told her to put her phone away, and the blonde hissed back, 'It's for business… ENSLAVER!'"

The audience member ended up interacting with a couple of other notable people sitting in the same vicinity: Parenthood actor Jason Ritter and J. Alexander from America's Next Top Model.

"The rest of the movie, I kept thinking about how I wanted to tell the blonde what a disgrace she was," the account goes on. "During the standing ovation, the blonde ducked out and Jason Ritter turned around to make commiserating eye contact, as J. Alexander asked, 'Who WAS that?!' Jason then looked down at the floor. His eyes got wide, and he picked up an envelope and showed it to us and J. And it said: '2 screening tix MADONNA.' And sure enough, we looked to the side of the theater and standing against the wall in black lace gloves was Madonna. The worst person in America."

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Alamo Drafthouse banned her for life.
Dimitrios Kambouris/Getty Images

Though she wasn't kicked out at the time, when word got out after the screening that Madonna had been texting, League made a statement on Alamo's Twitter. "Until she apologizes to movie fans, Madonna is banned from watching movies @drafthouse," the official account posted, along with a link to press coverage of her supposed behavior. According to THR, League also sent a letter to the managers of every Alamo location instructing them not to grant the pop star entry into any of their theaters until she said she was sorry.

There's no indication that Madonna ever did apologize to the chain, so the ban may very well still be in place.

Madonna was slammed for texting in another theater a couple of years later.
Neilson Barnard/Getty Images

The ban didn't seem to bother Madonna, as, just two years later, she was caught texting during a performance of Hamilton during its off-Broadway run at the Public Theater. As reported by Us Weekly, composer Lin-Manuel Miranda tweeted after an April 2015 performance, "Tonight was the first time I asked stage management NOT to allow a celebrity (who was texting all through Act 2) backstage. #noselfieforyou." While he later deleted the tweet, another audience member's post about the pop star messaging on her phone throughout the musical is still up.

This time, Madonna did respond through a representative. "It's not true. She was invited backstage four different times," the statement provided to Us Weekly reads. "She texted post show when they were doing their fundraising pitch. Madonna had already made a generous donation."