Da Vinci Code banished from Fiji cinemas

Suva, Fiji - Hundreds of Christian protesters have banished The Da Vinci Code from Fiji's cinema screens.

Village Cinemas Fiji stopped screenings of the controversial movie at theatres in the two biggest cities of Suva and Lautoka on Friday and vowed not to show it again.

This is despite the film about a fictional Catholic Church conspiracy being a roaring success among Fiji filmgoers, none of whom have complained about its content.

The move follows Samoa's censor banning The Da Vinci Code and plans by the Solomon Islands government to do the same.

Central Suva's Village 6 Cinemas closed for business as protesters led by the influential Methodist Church took to the streets against the film, which had been screening for several weeks.

The city's government administrator gave permission for the march to go ahead after consulting police and publicly sided with the demonstrators' cause.

Central Commissioner Inoke Devo said the independent Censorship Board should not have allowed The Da Vinci Code to be screened in the first place, as Fiji law stated no film should permitted if it brought a particular religion into contempt.

"Given the foregoing and the fact that the greater part of Fiji's citizens belong to the Christian faith, the permit to express their resentment and disagreement to the public screening of the film should not be denied," Devo said.

Around 400 people holding banners and placards calling on the government to ban the movie marched through the streets of Suva, escorted and closely monitored by a large police contingent.

It was the first time in Fiji's history that people have marched against the screening of a movie.

Another protest is planned in the western city of Lautoka on Saturday.

Standing behind the ropes that cordoned off the public from the heavily guarded entrance of the closed Village 6 cinema, manager Vijen Nair promised patrons the cinema would reopen once the march was over.

But he conceded the cinema would not be screening The Da Vinci Code again.

"The Da Vinci Code has done very well for us. I can't reveal figures but a lot of people have watched it, and none of them ever complained to us," Nair said.

"But I don't think we will be showing it again. There is a potential for disturbance and it could affect the screening of the other movies."

Australasian entertainment company SkyCity this week became a majority shareholder in Village Cinemas Fiji, which has a virtual monopoly on new release movies in the country.

In a petition presented to Fiji Prime Minister Laisenia Qarase, the Methodist Church said The Da Vinci Code is "false and mischievous, but strikes at the heart of Christendom".

"The film denies the divinity of Christ and makes a mockery of tested doctrinal basis upon which the Christian faith has survived for over 20 centuries."

The petition also attacks the Censorship Board for allowing the film to be screened.

In Auckland, Village SkyCity Cinemas chief executive Joe Moodabe supported the decision to stop screening The Da Vinci Code in Fiji.

"We have to be conscious of being part of the community," Moodabe said.

"These people are our patrons and if they feel that strongly about it ... then we have to take that into consideration."

He said the film would have soon ended its run in Fiji regardless.

"It's a case of the horse having bolted because the picture's been in release for two and a half weeks," he said.