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Wednesday, 19 December, 2001, 11:03 GMT
Locals protest at 'occult' Potter
Harry Potter
The petition has had no effect, says the cinema
Harry Potter's reign at the box office is being challenged by residents of a town in Somerset.

Ninety people in Wellington have signed a petition protesting at the film for what they call its "occult connections" and presented it to the manager of the town's only cinema.


You shouldn't try to impose your beliefs on other people

Stewart Cusack, Wellesley Cinema
Resident Julie Sparkes launched the petition after seeing that the hit movie Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone was coming to the town.

"I did a lot of research and realised it was all about the occult and became very concerned," Ms Sparkes told BBC News Online.

'Good business'

"I decided to set up a petition, even though it was too late to stop the film being shown in our town."

The petition calls on the Wellesley cinema to stop showing the film - but the cinema says that it has done "extremely good business" with the Potter film, which has been a blockbuster hit worldwide.

Harry Potter
Potter: Showing people how to do witchcraft?
Stewart Cusack, leaseholder of the Wellesley cinema, described the petition as "a ridiculous waste of time".

"You shouldn't try to impose your beliefs on other people," Mr Cusack told BBC News Online.

"Earlier this year we had the Hannibal film on - why didn't they complain about that?"

Mr Cusack added that the petition had had no discernible effect on attendance.

Fantasy

"We've done extremely good business - we're extremely pleased and the film's run has been extended from three to four weeks," he said.

But Ms Sparkes dismisses suggestions that the works of JK Rowling are a harmless fantasy.

"They are definitely not harmless - it is showing people how to do witchcraft," she said.

"We will continue to try to get people more aware of the dangers of the occult."

Community

The town's Baptist minister, the Reverend Sam Griffiths, believes the row has been overplayed.

"This isn't a big issue in our community," he told BBC News Online.

"Though I sympathise with Ms Sparkes' views, I think the film is quite good and I'm saying something different.

"I'm saying, 'Hey, we need to engage with this' and not just ban it - saying no to this is not helping us put the Christian message across."

Distributors Warner Bros declined to comment.

See also:

18 Dec 01 | Film
Diary star joins Potter sequel
05 Nov 01 | Education
Harry Potter 'occult' warning
24 Sep 01 | Film
Toy shop bans Harry Potter
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