(Reuters) - An evangelist preacher is calling for a boycott of the upcoming Walt Disney film "Beauty and the Beast" because it features a gay character, saying that the company is trying to promote an LGBT agenda to children.
Franklin Graham, the North Carolina-based son of evangelist preacher Billy Graham and president of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association, called for the boycott in a Facebook post on Thursday. By Friday the post had been shared more than 88,000 times, and a movie theater in Alabama said it will not screen the film.
"They’re trying to push the LGBT agenda into the hearts and minds of your children - watch out!," Graham wrote.
Graham said Disney was making an attempt to "normalize this (gay) lifestyle."
Earlier this week, the film's director, Bill Condon, told British gay lifestyle magazine Attitude that the movie will feature a gay character - LeFou, the goofy sidekick to main villain Gaston - for the first time in Disney's history.
Walt Disney Co, which has long been known for its animated movies and other films aimed at families, did not immediately return requests for comment on Friday.
The movie, a live-action remake of Disney's animated classic film, will begin its worldwide rollout on March 16. Starring Emma Watson as young Belle who falls in love with a horrific-looking man, it is one of the most buzzed about movies of the spring. According to some box office analysts, it could bring in upwards of $100 million in North America on its opening weekend.
"I hope Christians everywhere will say no to Disney," Graham said in his Facebook post, asking supporters to let Disney know their feelings about the movie.
Film director Condon told Attitude magazine that the character of LeFou will come to terms with his sexuality, and said the ending of the movie brings a payoff and "a nice, exclusively gay moment in a Disney movie."
The owners of the Henagar Drive-In Theatre in Henagar, Alabama, announced their decision to boycott the film in a Facebook post on Thursday. Describing themselves as Christian, the owners said: "We will not compromise on what the Bible teaches."
"If we can not take our 11 year old grand daughter and 8 year old grandson to see a movie we have no business watching it," they wrote. "If I can't sit through a movie with God or Jesus sitting by me then we have no business showing it."
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Leslie Adler)