"Vue say that there's been a number of incidents, but where's the proof, the evidence," the filmmaker said over the decision to pull Paramount's London gangland drama.
British director Andrew Onwubolu — better known as Rapman — has spoken out against U.K. theater chain Vue over its decision to withdraw his Paramount-backed London gangland drama Blue Story from its cinemas.
On Sunday, Vue announced that it was pulling the film following a brawl involving a machete in the lobby of a cinema in Birmingham. It later doubled down on its decision following a major backlash, stating on Monday that it was made after more than "25 significant incidents" had been reported in 16 of its cinemas in just 24 hours.
But Rapman has now questioned this claim and the motives of the cinema chain. "Vue say that there's been a number of incidents, but where's the proof, the evidence," he told BBC Breakfast on Wednesday morning. "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?”
Rapman also said he felt that Vue claimed there had been additional incidents to "cover their decision, which already wasn't justified because the incident had no connection to Blue Story."
Following two London friends who become rivals in local gang wars, Blue Story was made off the back of Rapman's hugely popular YouTube miniseries Shiro's Story and stars Stephen Odubola and Michael Ward Top Boy. Rather than glorify violence, the musician-turned-filmmaker — who escaped London's gang scene himself — has said that he wanted to highlight the futility of gangland culture and its origins.
"I want people who see the film to learn that these kids are not all spawns of Satan," he told the BBC. "They didn't come from child abuse or neglectful mothers. What kids go through in the school playground is so intense, it all starts there."
In a new statement, Vue founder Tim Richard said that he hadn't seen a nationwide issue such as that with Blue Story affecting so many cinemas in such a short space of time "in over 30 years" of working in the U.K.'s cinema industry. "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,” he said. “We wholeheartedly agree that the issues that have arisen are not about the film, but neither are they about Vue."
At the U.K. box office, Blue Story earned an impressive $1.67 million in its opening weekend, landing in the third spot behind Last Christmas and a record-breaking Frozen 2. However, according to Rapman, Vue's decision has since seen the film lose nearly half its screens from the original tally of more than 300.
Soon after it announced the worldwide delay of A Quiet Place Part II, Paramount Studios is shuffling its entire film release schedule amid the escalating coronavirus pandemic. Coronavirus aka COVID-19 has affected two more Paramount releases, with the studio pulling the release of the upcoming films The Lovebirds and Blue Story. No new release date has been set for either film yet.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, Paramount is pulling the release of two more films amid coronavirus concerns. The Kumail Nanjiani and Issa Rae comedy The Lovebirds, originally slated to open April 3, has been pushed back, as has the teen gang drama Blue Story, originally sceduled for March 20. Neither film has been scheduled for a new release date yet.
The Lovebirds, which stars Nanjiani and Rae as a couple framed for murder, was set in April as comedy counterprogramming to the summer tentpole slate. Meanwhile, Blue Story, which was slated for limited release on the same weekend of A Quiet Place Part II, is a low-budget feature adaptation of Rapman’s YouTube series about two young friends who become rivals in a street war. As mid- to low-budget films with less of a pull than big IPs like A Quiet Place, they would be due to suffer financially from reluctant audiences concerned about coronavirus.
Theaters remain open in the U.S., but it seems more likely that some theaters could go dark. Internationally, theaters across China and Italy have shuttered, while there are widespread closures in South Korea and France.
The delays comes hours after Paramount announced that it was delaying the global release of A Quiet Place Part II, whose delay came piecemeal after initial reports of the film getting pulled from international release. It comes mere minutes after Universal pushed its tentpole blockbuster F9 by a year, delaying the action film to 2021. Major delays for film releases were expected after MGM kicked off the pushbacks with No Time to Die, followed by Sony’s Peter Rabbit 2 and STXfilms’ My Spy. But the sudden barrage of film delays follows immediately after a frantic 24 hours which saw the White House announce a travel ban in Europe, the House and Senate closed for session, and the NBA suspend its current season.