Wal-Mart Stores Inc. , the world’s largest retailer, went ahead with plans this week to sell DVD copies of the gay-themed film “Brokeback Mountain” despite protests from a Christian advocacy group.
The American Family Association, which called last month for a boycott against Ford Motor Co. for advertising in gay publications, recently began pressing Wal-Mart to refuse to carry the award-winning movie in its 3,700-plus U.S. stores.
The Tupelo, Mississippi-based group accused Wal-Mart of abandoning its “family-friendly” corporate image by selling the film, about two cowboys who carry on a homosexual love affair.
Movie posters for the film, featuring stars Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal, have been displayed prominently in Wal-Mart storefronts to promote the DVD release.
In a notice on its Web site, the group urged “concerned Christians to let their local Wal-Mart managers know how they feel and that they are not pleased over the chain’s decision to promote and carry the pro-homosexual movie.”
A Wal-Mart spokesman, Gail Lavielle, denied the retail giant was advocating any social agenda.
“The only thing we take into consideration when we decide to sell something is whether we think there’s demand among our customers,” Lavielle told Reuters. “We’re a retailer. We want to sell things our customers will buy.”
The film, which earned three Oscars, including an Academy Award for its director, Ang Lee, sold a hefty 1.4 million DVD copies its first day in all retail stores on Monday, according to Universal Studios Home Entertainment, part of the media division of General Electric Co. .
“Brokeback” already has grossed roughly $160 million at the box office worldwide, including about $83 million domestically. While hardly a blockbuster by Hollywood standards, the film has drawn far greater mainstream attention than most small-budget, independently produced films of its ilk.
“It wasn’t even a blockbuster movie, so if Wal-Mart isn’t trying to push an agenda, why would they put it at the front door?” American Family Association executive Randy Sharp told the Los Angeles Times.
The film is not the first media product to put the group at odds with Wal-Mart.
According to the Times, the association led a campaign in 2003 pressing Wal-Mart to stop stocking magazines they considered indecent. As a result Wal-Mart halted sales of some men’s magazines and placed plastic shields over others.
The American Family Association boasts a membership of 3 million. It launched a boycott against Ford last month, accusing it of reneging on a pledge to drop its ads for luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover from gay publications.
Wal-Mart is one of America’s largest sellers of DVDs.