Does 'The Master' Spell The End For Scientology's Power In Hollywood?

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Sep. 16 2012, Published 12:00 p.m. ET

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By Staff

The Master, the film loosely based on Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, set a box office record this weekend and has many asking if the movie could be the nail in the coffin on the controversial organization's power in Hollywood.

"The greatest indication of Scientology’s waning power in Hollywood is that Paul Thomas Anderson is putting that movie out. He wouldn’t have even thought about that 10 years ago,” Marty Rathbun, a former top Scientology official told The New York Post. "What’s changed is Tom Cruise’s meltdown on Oprah, Tom Cruise’s meltdown with Matt Lauer, Tom Cruise’s meltdown with Katie Holmes. They’ve brought it upon themselves. They’ve become an acceptable joke.”

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With Philip Seymour Hoffman in the lead, The Master brought in over $700,000 in just five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The per-screen average of $145,949, is a new record for a speciality film opening in limited release. It will soon open in many more theaters.

The Master never mentions Scientology by name. The movie is about a 1950s self-help guru and con-man (Hoffman) who director Paul Thomas Anderson says was inspired by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard and other leaders of secretive sects.

"Both are former science fiction writers who founded programs steeped in extra-terrestrial gobbledygook that purport to improve followers’ lives through confessional sessions employing a device similar to a lie detector," writes Reed Tucker in The Post

Anderson, who directed Tom Cruise 13 years ago in Magnolia, screened The Master for him as a "courtesy," he said, but he's not revealed Cruise's reaction.

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Hollywood's move away from Scientology seems to have begun when writer/director Paul Haggis left in 2010.

But 2012 has been a watershed year for Scientology in Hollywood, said Rathbun.

The devastating Vanity Fair article on the Tom Cruise - Katie Holmes split, heavily focusing on Scientology, came on the heels of lawsuits alleging inappropriate gay sexual advances on the part of John Travolta.

Rathbun says Scientology leader David Miscavige’s high interest with A-listers has been part of its undoing. “This celebrity business has utterly backfired,” he told The Post.  “The biggest negative you can have is to say, ‘Hey, man, lemme tell you about Scientology, that thing Tom Cruise is involved with'."


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