Sligo cinema worker sacked after playing wrong Matrix movie to ‘angry’ moviegoers

A film veteran has been sacked following fallout from playing a bad Matrix movie to ‘angry’ onlookers at Omniplex Sligo.

According to a Workplace Relations Commission (WRC) ruling, customers remained “extremely furious and angry” after the Omniplex played The Matrix Reloaded instead of The Matrix on July 11, 2019.

The 2003 Matrix Reloaded is the sequel to The Matrix in Keanu Reeves’ film franchise, with the four films in the franchise grossing a worldwide box office of $1.79 billion.

Omniplex (Cork) Limited has fired Joseph Callaghan with 28 years service after accusing him of trying to cover up his mistake of playing the wrong movie by removing the correct one, The Matrix, from the server.

Employed at the film company since 1992, Mr Callaghan alleged that his duty manager, Mark Foley, telephoned him the evening after the incident and told him that the owner of the company, Mark Anderson, had indicated that ” Mr. Callaghan’s head would roll for the wrongdoing on the night in question’.

After a viewer complained on the night of July 12, 2019 that the wrong Matrix movie was being shown, Mr Callaghan paused The Matrix Reloaded and turned on the lights on screen.

Mr Callaghan gave ‘angry’ moviegoers passes and said they could return to the Omniplex at a later date to watch The Matrix.

Sued for wrongful dismissal

In response to his dismissal, Mr Callaghan sued for wrongful dismissal and WRC arbitrator Shay Henry dismissed his claim, finding that Mr Callaghan had not been unfairly dismissed.

Mr Callaghan claimed that the wrong film, The Matrix Reloaded, was shown because the correct one, The Matrix, had not been delivered to the cinema and it had not been identified beforehand because the titles of the films had names similar.

The film company said its IT department discovered from the screening server logs that the correct movie, The Matrix, had in fact been delivered well in advance on July 2, 2019, and was removed very shortly. long after it was discovered the incorrect film, The Matrix Reloaded, was screened on July 12, 2019.

In his findings, Mr Henry said from the evidence provided “it is clear that the good film was taken down shortly after he (Mr Callaghan) charted the bad film”.

Mr. Henry said the employer’s investigation concluded on a balance of probabilities that Mr. Callaghan deleted the film.

Mr Henry said CCTV evidence showed Mr Callaghan was present in the room with the server when the deletion happened.

He said: “I therefore conclude that the company had reasonable grounds to believe that the complainant was guilty of misconduct.”

Mr Henry said it was clear from the film company’s testimony that it was of the view ‘that breach of trust was at the heart of the employment contract and that dismissal was the proportionate response’.

Mr Henry said: ‘This position falls within the range of the employer’s reasonable responses and I therefore conclude that the dismissal was just.’

“Intentionally Covered”

The film company told the WRC hearing that “although the screening of the wrong film was considered serious and disappointing as it negatively impacted many customers and resulted in loss of revenue and reputation for the company , the most serious was that the error had been intentionally covered up by deleting the correct movie from the server, immediately after it was discovered that the wrong movie had been played”.

The film company found Mr Callaghan could not be trusted after it was discovered he had deleted the film, and so he was fired on February 12, 2020.

Omniplex said Mr Callaghan’s actions destroyed the company’s trust in him and made it impossible to continue the employment relationship, thus justifying the dismissal.

In the case, Mr. Callaghan was represented by John Anderson of McGovern Walsh Solicitors and Mr. Walsh argued that Mr. Callaghan had an exemplary record throughout his employment with that company.

Mr Walsh has argued that Mr Callaghan suffered a bodily injury on the premises and that this led to a breakdown in the relationship and Mr Callaghan claims he was scapegoated for the error of the film company who sent the wrong movie.

Mr. Walsh argued that it was of no benefit to Mr. Callaghan to remove The Matrix as alleged.

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Mr Walsh said no evidence has been produced to prove that Mr Callaghan actually deleted this film and that other staff on the night in question had access to the screening room and that he did not There is no evidence that the film in question was ever so deleted. .

Mr. Walsh also said that Mr. Callaghan had not been shown or proven to have deleted the film and that there were many alternative explanations for the film’s non-existence and/or unavailability.

Mr Walsh argued that the decision to fire Mr Callaghan was wrong and that there was not even cause for disciplinary action, let alone dismissal.

He argued that even if there had been grounds to discipline Mr Callaghan, which is denied, the sanction of dismissal was grossly disproportionate.