UPDATED: BBC Films and Paramount have defended Andrew Onwubolu’s “Blue Story” as a powerful film about gang violence after a mass brawl marred a weekend screening of the movie and caused at least two cinema chains to pull it from their theaters. One of the chains, Showcase, has subsequently decided to begin screening the film again.
The fight Saturday outside the Star City entertainment complex in Birmingham, in central England, involved up to 100 people, with at least one participant pictured carrying a machete. Seven police officers were injured, and five teenagers were arrested.
“We are appalled by the incident at Star City and our thoughts are with all those affected by it,” BBC Films said in a statement, adding: “’Blue Story’ is an outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence. It’s an important film from one of the U.K.’s most exciting new filmmakers which we’re proud to be part of.”
Paramount, which released the film in the U.K., thanked exhibitors for playing the movie. “We were saddened to see the events that unfolded at Star City and our sympathies are with all those affected,” Paramount said. “We feel that this is an important film, which we’ve seen play in more than 300 cinemas across the country, with incredibly positive reactions and fantastic reviews. We thank all our exhibition partners for their ongoing support.”
The picture performed well at the local box office, pulling in £1.3 million ($1.7 million) over the weekend.
After Saturday’s brawl, exhibition chain Vue said it was pulling the movie in the U.K. and Ireland. The smaller Showcase chain has since followed suit. Odeon said it would continue to play the movie but has implemented security measures to ensure customers’ safety.
“Blue Story” is directed by Onwubolu, the YouTube sensation known as Rapman. The film tells the tale of two London youths whose lives are scarred by gang warfare. In a statement on Instagram Sunday, Onwubolu said the film “is about love not violence.”
“There were also a few incidents earlier this year with the release of ‘Joker,’ it’s always unfortunate, but I hope that the blame is placed with the individuals and not an indictment of the film itself,” he added.