Vue defends pulling 'Blue Story' gang film from cinemas after '25 incidents in 24 hours'

Vue defends pulling 'Blue Story' gang film from cinemas after '25 incidents in 24 hours'
Ross McGuinness

Vue has defended pulling gang-themed film Blue Story from its cinemas, saying it experienced “25 significant incidents in 24 hours”.

The cinema chain is one of two, along with Showcase, to ban the movie after a reported brawl at a screening in Birmingham.

Seven police officers were injured following reports of youths with machetes at Star City on Saturday evening.

Five teenagers were arrested, including a 13-year-old girl. As a result of the violence, Vue cinemas said Blue Story would no longer be showing at any of its 91 outlets in the UK and Ireland.

On Monday, Vue said the decision was based on incidents at 16 of its cinemas within the first day of the film’s release.

Police were called to Star City in Birmingham on Saturday evening (Picture: PA)
Police were called to Star City in Birmingham on Saturday evening. (PA)

Vue said: “The decision to withdraw Blue Story was not one taken lightly or without careful consideration of our experience across the country.

"The film opened in 60 of our sites across the UK and Ireland on Friday, November 22, but during the first 24 hours of the film over 25 significant incidents were reported and escalated to senior management in 16 separate cinemas.

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

Showcase said: "Due to the recent incidents tied to screenings of the film Blue Story, after careful consideration with the film's distributor, Showcase Cinemas has immediately removed the film from all of our participating cinemas.

"We apologise for any inconvenience but guest safety remains our top priority."

On Sunday, Blue Story’s writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, known as Rapman, insisted the movie is about “love not violence”.

He wrote on Instagram: "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. Bluestory is a film about love not violence.

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"There were also a few incidents earlier this year with the release of The Joker [sic], it's always unfortunate, but I hope that the blame is placed with the individuals and not an indictment of the film itself.

"I pray that we can all learn to live with love and treat each other with tolerance and respect."

Video footage from inside the multiplex in Birmingham appeared to show fights and people screaming.

West Midlands Police officers drew Tasers and used a dispersal order to remove about 100 youths from Star City.

Blue Story writer and director Rapman at the film's premiere earlier this month (Picture: PA)
Blue Story writer and director Andrew Onwubolu, known as Rapman at the film's premiere earlier this month. (PA)

A 13-year-old girl, a girl and boy aged 14, and a 19-year-old man were held on suspicion of assaulting police. Another 14-year-old boy was arrested on suspicion of obstructing police.

All five were later released on bail and banned from leaving home at night and from attending Star City or any cinema in the UK.

On Sunday, police said a 14-year-old boy had also been arrested on suspicion of violent disorder after an image circulated on social media showed a number of youths, with one carrying a machete.

The hurt police officers suffered minor facial injuries.

Blue Story’s ban was criticised on social media, with some people saying the incident took place in the queue for Disney’s Frozen 2.

Others said Blue Story’s 15 certificate meant some of those arrested wouldn’t have been old enough to watch it.

The hashtag @BoycottVue was trending on Twitter after the cinema chain’s announcement.

BBC Films, which helped finance and develop Blue Story, said it is an "outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence”.

It added: "It's an important film from one of the UK's most exciting new filmmakers which we're proud to be part of."

The film's distributor, Paramount Pictures, said it was "saddened" by events at Star City, but that it thinks Blue Story is "an important film" that has had "incredibly positive reaction and fantastic reviews".

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 14: Rapman attends the World Premiere of "Blue Story" at Curzon Cinema Mayfair on November 14, 2019 in London, England. (Photo by Tim P. Whitby/Getty Images for Paramount)
Blue Story writer and director Andrew Onwubolu, known as Rapman, said the incident was 'unfortunate'. (PA)

Blue Story focuses on two friends from different south London postcodes, on rival sides of a street war.

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

A Vue spokesman said: "We can confirm a decision was made to remove the film.

"The safety and welfare of our customers and staff is always our first priority."

West Midlands Police said that they did not recommend the film was removed.

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham said: "We've made no recommendations to Vue at all. If they choose to continue showing it, that's a matter for them."

He said the disorder “may be the worst thing” that many responding officers had seen.