PETA protests 'A Dog's Purpose' at Hollywood theater

Lisa Lange said her dog's purpose is to sleep on rainy days and play with toys.

It's not, she said, to be a prop in a film so "Hollywood producers can make a buck." 

Lange, senior vice president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, was among dozens of demonstrators who gathered outside the Arclight theater in Hollywood on Friday asking people to boycott the film "A Dog's Purpose," which on its opening night is already at the center of an animal abuse controversy. 

Last week, TMZ published behind-the-scenes footage of a dog resisting before being submerged in water during an on-set stunt. 

"I was horrified," Lange said of her reaction to the clip. "If this can happen on a set where people actually care about animals, it shows how deeply entrenched the problems are in the industry." 

The filmmakers had swiftly dismissed the clip, claiming that it had been edited to look like the dog was in more danger than in reality. Still, the production company, Amblin Entertainment, released a statement saying it would continue reviewing footage of the incident. Meanwhile, in an effort to avoid a further public relations nightmare, Universal Pictures — which is distributing "A Dog's Purpose" — canceled the film's red carpet premiere and promotional press junket. 

Protesters holding up signs that read, "A dog's purpose is to be loved. Period," marched in silence to the theater entrance and back to to sidewalk, where drivers stuck in rush-hour traffic honked their horns, prompting cheers. 

Shortly after, demonstrators began chanting, "There's no excuse for animal abuse! Dog's aren't props!" 

Among them was Danny Prater, who donned a German shepherd costume as he held up a sign: "My purpose isn't to be in your damn movie." 

Feet away, a PETA staffer held up an iPad that played the video, on loop, above a sign that said, "This happened on the set of 'A Dog's Purpose.'" 

Cynthia Whitfield, a 54-year-old Santa Monica resident, paused to watch the clip.

"I had no idea about this," she said, her eyes welling with tears. "I'm appalled."

She said she had planned to watch the film after seeing advertisements plastered across the city, but changed her mind when she viewed the footage.

"I wouldn't spend my money on that," Whitfield said. "Whoever's in their marketing department forgot to mention a few things." 

On Friday, Lange called for Hollywood filmmakers to use computer-generated imagery to replicate animals in movies. 

If “A Dog’s Purpose” had opted to create all of its dogs digitally, its budget would have quadrupled, according to producer Gavin Polone. 

In that case, Lange said, the movie shouldn't have been made. 

"If you can't afford to make a humane movie, don't make a movie," she said.

alene.tchekmedyian@latimes.com

@AleneTchek

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UPDATES:

8:46 p.m.: This post was updated with a statement from the production company. 

This article was originally published at 8 p.m.

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