‘Poetic’ violence surfaces

Five incidents of violence, including a murder outside a theater, marred the opening of Columbia Pictures’ “Poetic Justice” last weekend, according to reports. Ironically, news of the widespread incidents began surfacing after a week of heated controversy over Cineplex Odeon’s much publicized decision not to unspool the film at its Universal City multiplex for fear of violence (Daily Variety, July 27). The film didn’t open there until Wednesday five days after its national opening. The circuit’s original decision not to carry the film led Los Angeles City Councilwoman Rita Walters to have a motion passed by Los Angeles City Council that called the stance “racist” (Daily Variety, July 28). “Poetic Justice” is the sophomore effort by writer-director John Singleton. In Knoxville, Tenn., a 19-year-old white man was shot in the leg after exiting the East Towne Mall Cinema Seven on Sunday, the Knoxville News-Sentinel reported Wednesday.

“A witness to the East Towne Mall shooting, who requested anonymity, said she and the victim and two friends attended the 9:45 p.m. show of ‘Poetic Justice,’ and the suspect and several friends sat in the row in front of them,” according to the article, which noted nothing occurred inside the cinema. The victim is recovering.

In Las Vegas, “We had a homicide outside the Cinedome Theatres,” said Lt. Carl Fruge, public information officer for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. The shooting took place late July 23, the pic’s opening night.

“There was no problem inside the theater. It happened outside just after the movie ended,” Fruge continued. He said the incident occurred after patrons of “Poetic Justice” poured from the cinema into the parking lot, where a 21 -year-old black man was fatally shot in his car.

Asked whether police believe the unsolved homicide was connected to the film, he said: “If we had had problems inside the theater as well as outside, we could attribute it to the movie, but since that didn’t occur, we don’t know what happened in the parking lot.” Witnesses had dispersed by the time police arrived shortly after midnight, Fruge said.

“There was pandemonium in the parking lot. People fled the area in cars and on foot according to the 911 calls,” the officer said.

Columbia declined comment. Singleton could not be reached.

Meanwhile, in Cineplex Odeon’s Burnham Plaza in Chicago, a fistfight broke out in an auditorium during a screening, sources said. The cinema refunded 79 tickets to other patrons.

Cineplex declined comment.

There were reportedly several incidents over the weekend in Philadelphia, including at United Artists’ 69th Street cinema at a screening of the film. UA officials could not be reached for comment.

Cinemark Theatres’ multiplex in Joliet, Ill., canceled all late screenings of the film after a fight broke out when “Poetic Justice” patrons exited into the parking lot July 23, sources said. Last screening now starts at 6:20 at that venue.

Cinemark declined comment.

As for Cineplex’s delaying the Universal City opening until midweek, prexy Allen Karp maintained earlier that safety was the company’s only concern: “In 1991 we experienced violence at Universal City Cinemas during the opening weekend of (Singleton’s debut film) ‘Boyz N the Hood.’ ”

“Poetic” stars Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur in a love story set in South Central L.A.

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