Moviegoers are flocking to theaters to see Sound of Freedom—or at least that’s what some theaters’ seating charts would indicate is happening.
But some of the patterns of sales are raising accusations the people buying these seats aren’t real. It’s a conspiracy both fans and opponents of the movie believe, albeit for differing reasons.
Viewers have complained that they expected to be going to a sold-out showing only to find themselves in an empty theater.
“There’s no one in here and then it said that they were sold out,” one TikTok user said. “This is ridiculous.”
“Theater is half full,” wrote one Twitter user who showed a seating map purporting to be sold out.
Starring Jim Caviezel, the film follows the true story of a former Department of Homeland Security agent’s quest to rescue children from sex trafficking. Sound of Freedom has grossed $82 million as of Saturday.
The film has become a hit among right-wing figures—even former President Donald Trump is hosting a screening of it at his Bedminster, New Jersey resort on Wednesday. But the film is not without controversy, as critics have argued it appeals to QAnon conspiracy theorists, who, among other things, believe a shadowy cabal of high-profile Democrats run a child sex ring and control global politics and media.
The film’s distributor, Angel Studios, has denied any connection to conspiracy theories.
Even so, opponents of the film are spreading conspiracies of their own. That shadow buyers are purchasing seats that will never be used to help boost sale numbers.
One AMC theater in Vancouver, Washington might be part of the trend of seats being purchased for individuals who don’t show up.
“Who takes the front row and outside ‘kink in neck seats’ over the middle?” asked one Twitter user, who also shared a screenshot of the theater’s seating map for a Saturday showing, in which the first two rows were sold out while there was ample availability in the middle.
That particular theater has an odd seating pattern for several shows throughout the week, the Daily Dot confirmed.
The exact same pattern can be observed later in the week, with the first two rows being full for the 12pm showings on Tuesday and Wednesday and the three outside seats on each side of the first three rows being filled for all the other showings until Thursday, when the theater will stop showing it (and the new Barbie starts playing instead).
It’s the reverse of just how any other movie theater would sell out, raising speculation those tickets aren’t for people who will actual attended.
Fans of the movie, though, believe something different: That AMC is actively trying to discourage moviegoers, including by marking seats as purchased that end up being empty.
It’s part of a string of their own conspiracies about the movies. Theories that seats are being inaccurately shown as full for sinister reasons come alongside reports of air conditioning not working in theaters, problems with lighting or sound, and other technical difficulties that some are using as evidence that the movie is trying to be suppressed.
Some conspiracists even linked the complaints about technical difficulties to the CEO of AMC having ties to former President Bill Clinton, who had ties to convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.
AMC CEO Adam Aron denounced the conspiracies on Twitter and highlighted that “more than ONE MILLION people have watched Sound of Freedom at AMC Theatres.”
Angel Studios’ head of theatrical distribution also came to Aron’s defense, saying that rumors that AMC has tried to make it difficult for moviegoers to see Sound of Freedom are inaccurate.
“We understand there are rumors—predominantly in social media—that AMC theaters have made it difficult for fans to see SOUND of FREEDOM in local AMC theaters, and we want to make it clear these rumors are not accurate,” said Brandon Purdie. “AMC has been an outstanding partner for Angel Studios, and in fact, as a result of the movie’s performance and consumer demand, AMC has agreed to add additional screens for SOUND OF FREEDOM this weekend.”
Purdie additionally requested that “anyone attending a screening of SOUND OF FREEDOM show kindness to their local theater staff.”
As for the seats selling out? That might be explained at least in part by Angel Studio’s “pay it forward” ticket program, which allows individuals to purchase tickets so others can see the film. Variety reported that “about $2.6 million of opening day sales were earned through this method.”
According to Angel Studios, more than 7 million tickets have been paid forward. In its FAQ section, the studio said that if not all the tickets are claimed and there are “any funds remaining after the theatrical run, they will be used to pay for streaming Sound of Freedom in the Angel Studios app,” and remaining funds could “also be used to help the filmmaker create additional content.”
But if people really are paying it forward, you think they’d want to buy better seats.