SECOND UPDATE AT 14:27 PM PST: UK theater chain Showcase is reinstating movie Blue Story with “increased security protocols.” Here’s their comment just in:
“We took the decision to temporarily suspend screenings of Blue Story to enable us to assess the situation. After careful consideration and discussions with the distributor in the last 24 hours, we have come up with a plan to re-instate screenings of the film supported with increased security protocols and will be doing so from this evening. We want to reassure our guests that their safety – and that of our staff members – is our absolute priority.”
It’s not immediately clear whether the chain will be reducing the movie’s screen count but this is positive news for the filmmakers, distributor Paramount and audiences keen to see the much-discussed movie. The re-instatement follows a sharp social media backlash against Vue and Showcase for pulling the movie across their circuits.
The well-received crime drama about gangs, and the disturbances at cinemas showing the film, have been a hot-button topic in the UK these past few days, garnering national headlines and prime-time coverage in radio and TV bulletins.
FIRST UPDATE AT 06.27AM PST: Vue, whose decision to pull gang crime drama Blue Story sparked a social media backlash, has issued a longer and more detailed explanation concerning its decision.
“The decision to withdraw Blue Story was not one taken lightly or without careful consideration of our experience across the country,” the commercial chain has told us in a statement. “The film opened in 60 of our sites across the UK and Ireland on Friday 22 November, but during the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas. This is the biggest number we have ever seen for any film in a such a short time frame.
“Despite a range of precautionary measures in place, including increased security, removal of late-night showings and reduced screenings of the film, the decision to withdraw Blue Story in its entirety was made on Saturday evening on grounds of safety alone. While we are disappointed that these are the actions we have had to take, we hope it is understandable that we cannot, and will not, take any risks with regard to the welfare and safety of our staff and our customers. Unfortunately, the actions of a significant few have spoiled the opportunity for others, but we stand by our decision to withdraw the film from our schedule indefinitely.
“This decision is not, as some have alleged, based on biased assumptions or concern about the content of the film itself. At Vue, we believe passionately in bringing people together and using the power of the big screen experience to entertain, educate and inspire all of our audiences. Blue Story is a fantastic film and one with a very powerful message. It is a film that has the opportunity to change lives. We hope that Blue Story achieves the success it deserves and importantly its message does not get lost.”
The movie opened well at the box office, garnering an estimated £1.3M and a third-place berth despite the off screen drama. Director Andrew Onwubolu claimed on Twitter today that the film “lost nearly half” its 300 screen count on Sunday.
PREVIOUS STORY 02.20AM PST: Two major UK cinema circuits have pulled Brit movie Blue Story following a disturbance at a Vue venue in the city of Birmingham.
Police officers were called to reports of youths with machetes at the Star City multiplex on Saturday evening. Officers ultimately cleared around 100 youths from the venue and recovered two machetes and a knife from the scene.
An officer at the scene explained, “This was a major outbreak of trouble which left families who were just trying to enjoy a night out at the cinema understandably frightened. We worked quickly to move the crowds on, but were met with a very hostile response and officers had to draw Tasers to restore order. It’s clear that some of those who went to Star City were intent on causing trouble.”
Five teenagers, including a 13-year-old girl, were arrested with Vue cinemas banning the film from its 91 outlets in the UK and Ireland in response. Showcase has also dropped the film.
The hard-hitting BBC Films-backed crime-drama about two friends who become rivals in a vicious London gangland war. Released on Friday, the movie has garnered positive reviews and a BIFA nomination. Micheal Ward (Top Boy) and newcomer Stephen Odubola star.
Fellow UK major Odeon said it was not withdrawing the film, but had “a number of security measures in place” for screenings. Cineworld is also still screening the movie, which was released by Paramount UK on more than 300 cinemas nationwide.
After the film was pulled, the film’s writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, aka musician and YouTuber Rapman, said the disturbance was “truly unfortunate” and he hoped it was not an “indictment” of the film.
Local press report that police didn’t call for the movie to be pulled. West Midlands police chief Steve Graham told the media, “I understand there is a lot of speculation on social media and people are citing that film. At this stage we are not jumping to any conclusions. That will form part of our investigations as it carries on.”
Vue and Showcase’s decision to pull the film has been criticized online. Among those calling it an over-reaction were ITV news presenter Charlene White who said on Twitter, “Seriously @Vuecinemas?! Clearly an isolated incident at one of your locations, but you choose to blame @BlueStoryMovie & ban it from ALL your venues. Utterly ridiculous.”
She added in a subsequent tweet, “… this whole nonsense can be filed alongside that age old, tired argument that black music causes violence.”
The film’s subject matter continues to be a hot-button issue in the UK, where around 6,500 children are known to be involved in gangs. Since 2010, 15% of homicides in London have been linked to gangs.
Paramount has world rights to the film. No U.S. release is planned, according to the studio.