The director of Blue Story has criticised the decision to pull the film from cinemas, saying the gang story can “save lives”.
Vue Cinemas withdrew the film after seven police officers were injured in a disturbance at Star City in Birmingham on Saturday evening, where there were reports of youths with machetes.
Writer and director Andrew Onwubolu, known as Rapman, told BBC Breakfast: “Because of that, they’ve pulled it from every single Vue. What happened was not even connected to the film. I couldn’t believe it.”
“Opening weekend is so important and we were trying to make a statement, not only with the message but the fact that there is an audience for those type of stories.
“When we found out that we lost so many screens, and we didn’t have that may screens to begin with, I felt like my legs were swiped from underneath me.”
Discussing the incident in Birmingham itself, he said: “Bringing a machete to a cinema is barbaric. I don’t understand that at all.
He added: “If anyone did get hurt, that’s a tragedy.”
Onwubolu questioned Vue’s reasoning for pulling the film, saying: “They say that there have been a number of incidents, but where’s the evidence for that?
“The one that they were talking about was caught on camera, but we live in a camera generation now. Anything that happens, the youth are going to film it.
“How come we haven’t seen any footage of the rest of these incidents?
“I felt like that was just something to say to cover their decision, which already wasn’t justified because the incident had no connection to Blue Story. It wasn’t in a Blue Story film.
“The people apparently weren’t allowed to watch Frozen, so are we going to pull Frozen as well?”
He claimed that Paramount, the studio behind the film, had offered additional security to Vue cinemas, but they did not take them up on the offer.
Tim Richards, founder and chief executive of Vue International, has defended the decision, saying it was “not an easy one”, adding it has “left all of us at Vue shocked and saddened to be in this position”.
He continued: “I have never misunderstood the power of any art form and this film is not alone in its impact. However, in over 30 years of working in cinema exhibition in the UK, I have never seen a nationwide issue like this affecting so many cinemas in such a short space of time.
“Group incidents started at 10am on a Friday morning throughout the UK, including small local cinemas, ending at midnight and then this started again at 10am on Saturday morning, ending at 10pm on Saturday evening – across 16 of our cinemas alone.
“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.
“We are not alone in this process and know that screenings of Blue Story are also being reviewed, reduced or withdrawn by other operators in a number of locations for the same reasons.
“Our reports also showed that Blue Story attracted a very young audience. The media has reported widely on the age of those attending cinemas, incorrectly associating their attendance with other movies. This is simply not true.
“A younger audience were attempting to purchase tickets for other movies to access the Blue Story screenings and were also resisting requests for ID. This also played a key role in incidents and our decision.”
The director told the BBC the decision was “breaking my heart” and that he “never thought it would happen”.
He said: “I couldn’t believe it. Why my film?”
Asked if it glorified gang violence, he said: “Anyone who’s ever said that never watched the film. I know it’s about love.
“What people do for the people they love. How love can make people make the wrong decisions and the right decisions sometime.”
Discussing its message, he said: “It can definitely save lives. The message will make you think. It’s going to hit you.”
BBC Breakfast is on BBC One every day from 6am.