Blue Story: Showcase reinstates showings of gang film after brawl

Image source, BBC Films and Paramount Pictures
Image caption,
Blue Story is the tale of two friends who become rivals

A cinema chain has reversed its decision to pull the film Blue Story after a brawl.

Showcase said it had reinstated screenings of the film on Monday night after "careful consideration".

It comes after youths, some armed with machetes, sparked a police operation at Vue's multiplex cinema at Star City in Birmingham.

A ban is still in place at Vue cinemas' 91 UK and Ireland venues, it said, after multiple "significant incidents".

The move has prompted a backlash on social media with some labelling the ban as "racist".

Cinema firm Showcase had initially stopped showing the film, but reinstated screenings on Monday night after "careful consideration and discussions with the distributor".

"We have come up with a plan to reinstate screenings of the film supported with increased security protocols and will be doing so from this evening," it said.

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Five teenagers, including a 13-year-old girl, were arrested in connection with the disturbance, which involved up to 100 young people in a public area of the multiplex, on Saturday night.

In a statement, Vue said the film opened in 60 of its sites across the UK and Ireland on Friday.

"But during the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas," it said.

"This is the biggest number we have ever seen for any film in a such a short time frame."

Media caption,
Several arrests were made at a multiplex in Birmingham on Saturday (Courtesy Rachael Allison)

A spokeswoman for Vue confirmed police had been called to some of the incidents, but could not confirm exactly how many times.

The chain has stressed the decision to pull the film was prompted only because of the risk of further violence.

A spokeswoman for Vue said a "significant incident" was "any incident that has a risk to audience members", adding that they were awaiting clarification of the details of individual cases.

The Odeon chain says it is not withdrawing the film, but "a number of security measures are in place" for Blue Story screenings, though it refused to elaborate on what they are.

In Birmingham, a note on the door of the Odeon cinema at the Broadway Plaza said staff would be carrying out bag searches throughout the day.

Media caption,
Andrew Onwubolu, known as Rapman, wrote and directed the film Blue Story

Blue Story's writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu known as Rapman, said Saturday's disturbance in Birmingham was "truly unfortunate".

In an Instagram post on Sunday, the rapper-turned-filmmaker wrote: "Sending love to all those involved in yesterday's violence at Star City in Birmingham.

"It's truly unfortunate that a small group of people can ruin things for everybody.

"Blue Story is a film about love not violence."

On Monday, he tweeted: "We lost nearly half of our screens on the third day but we still made history with £1.3m in 3 days. Blue Story is number three in the UK box office. Thank you."

An online petition calling for the film to be reinstated at Vue cinemas has attracted more than 13,000 signatures.

Image source, BBC Films and Paramount Pictures
Image caption,
The film was released last Friday

On Saturday, West Midlands Police officers drew Tasers and used a dispersal order to clear the Star City venue.

Footage from inside the multiplex appeared to show fights and people on the floor screaming.

The five teenagers - two girls aged 13 and 14 and three 14-year-old boys - have all now been bailed alongside a 19-year-old man.

Four were held on suspicion of assaulting police and one of the boys was detained on suspicion of obstructing police.

Another of the boys was arrested on suspicion of violent disorder after an image circulated on social media showing a number of youths, with one carrying a machete.

Police were called to the complex, in Nechells, at about 17:30 GMT and cleared the area by 21:00. The officers hurt during the disorder suffered minor facial injuries.

The film focuses on two friends from different south London postcodes on rival sides of a street war.

It is rated 15 for strong language, strong violence, threat, sex and drug misuse.

Distributor Paramount Pictures said it was "saddened" by events at Star City but said the movie had had an "incredibly positive reaction and fantastic reviews".

In Sheffield on Sunday evening, there was an increased police presence around Centertainment in Broughton Lane ahead of the showing of the film after disorder was reported outside the Cineworld within the complex on Saturday.

"Officers carried out patrols of the area to ensure everyone's safety," police said in a statement, adding that they would "be liaising with Cineworld over the coming week to discuss further screenings of this film".

Cineworld has confirmed that it will not be pulling the film.

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