The cinema said it had taken the measure after “25 significant incidents,” following an initial widely reported incident involving a machete at a Birmingham site on Saturday (November 23) during the film’s opening weekend.
Speaking on BBC Breakfast this morning, Rapman questioned the motives behind the decision: “Vue say that there’s been a number of incidents but where’s the proof, the evidence?”
“The one incident that they’re taking about was on camera, we live in a camera generation, anything happens the youth are going to film that. How come we haven’t seen any footage of the rest of these incidents?” He continued. “I feel like that was something [Vue said] to cover their decision, which already wasn’t justified because the incident had no connection to Blue Story.”
Vue maintains that it has a “duty of care” to its staff and customers and that the decision has “left all of us at Vue shocked and saddened to be in this position.”
In a new statement, Vue founder Tim Richards added, “In over 30 years of working in cinema exhibition in the UK, I have never seen a nationwide issue like this affecting so many cinemas in such a short space of time. We have reviewed and assessed each and every incident in detail as part of our ongoing process of making decisions as to how we could possibly keep Blue Story on our screens.”
“We whole heartedly agree that the issues that have arisen are not about the film, but neither are they about Vue,” he said.
Blue Story was released in the UK over the weekend by Paramount, grossing an impressive $1.7m to place it third in the weekend chart.
However, a troubled debut saw two UK multiplex chains ban the film from their sites after an incident at a cinema in Birmingham that saw police officers respond to reports of people with machetes at Vue’s Star City multiplex on Saturday evening.
In response, Vue and Showcase cinemas removed the film from their venues, which Rapman said caused it to lose “nearly half” of its 300 screen count on Sunday. After a significant public backlash against the move, Showcase reinstated the film with “increased security protocols.” Vue stuck to its position, citing numerous incidents that were “escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas.”
“I actually couldn’t believe it,” said Rapman on the BBC show. “I felt like my legs had been swiped underneath me. Opening weekend is so important. We are trying to make a statement, not just with the message [of the film], but the fact that there’s an audience for these types of stories.”
Rapman used the interview to talk about the incident itself. “Bringing a machete to a cinema is barbaric, I don’t understand it at all. I hope nobody got hurt, if anyone did that’s a tragedy. I don’t understand why kids would bring a machete to a cinema.”
But he questioned the relation between the incident and his film. “What happened is not connected to the film. It wasn’t in a Blue Story screening. The people weren’t allowed to watch Frozen II, are we going to pull that as well?”
BBC presenter Louise Minchin read out a Vue statement, which said the chain “hopes Blue Story achieves the success it deserves and, importantly, its message doesn’t get lost”.
“But do they really hope it goes on to to do what it deserves?” Responded Rapman. “If that’s the case they would have reinstated the film by now. Why not hire more security?”
The director said he had spoken to Paramount, and that the studio claimed it had offered to pay for increased security at screenings of the films in ‘hot sites’, i.e. venues “where it’s a bit boisterous anyway,” he explained.
“Vue could’ve easily taken up that offer,” he said, adding that he “wouldn’t have minded” if they had removed the film from specific venues, rather than a blanket ban.
Vue has claimed that they have reached out to Rapman to speak to him, to no avail, which the director responded to.
“After they got so much backlash on social media for their decision they felt like their reputation was in trouble, so they figured if they reached out to me it would take the heat off them. I said, ‘if we speak are we going to talk about reinstating,’ they said ‘no,’ they would just explain why they pulled it, I’d read the statement so there was nothing else to talk about.”
Blue Story depicts gang violence in south London, however many have emphasized that the film is a warning message and doesn’t promote violence.
“Its about love, what people do for the people they love, how love can make people make the wrong decisions,” said Rapman. “If you’re in a gang and you’re living that life, rolling with friends who are doing bad things, this film shows you the end result of that, it will wake you up, you will leave that cinema thinking twice about your situation. It can save lives.”
Rapman shot to fame after his three-part Youtube series Shiro’s Story went viral, clocking more than 20 million views. Blue Story was backed by BBC Films and produced by DJ Films and Joi Productions.