BY TOBY PORTER
The Vue cinema chain is looking to bring back a film two days after it banned the movie from its screens.
It had pulled Blue Story, by Lewisham rapper Rapman, after saying there had been 25 “serious incidents” in 16 of its cinemas, including a brawl outside one in Birmingham on Saturday.
But the chain now hopes to have it back in cinemas this weekend.
The 15-rated movie tells the story of a violent street rivalry in South London.
Rapman said it was about love, not violence – and hoped the blame for the disorder was “placed with the individuals and not an indictment of the film itself”.
He said: “Sending love to all those involved in the violence at Star City in Birmingham.
It’s truly unfortunate that a small group of people can ruin things for everybody. I pray that we can all learn to live with love and treat each other with tolerance and respect.
“The film is very like my life. I lived in one area and went to school in another area – where there were rival gangs. I was just thinking of survival.
“What youth are going through is so intense – that’s where it starts. What I am trying to do is make it easier.
“They need positive role models and counselling at the right age. It is important to check kids who are getting into trouble every five minutes – we should not wait until they are 17 and picking up a weapon and doing something crazy.
“It does not glamourise that struggle.”
The decision to pull Blue Story from cinemas provoked a fierce backlash.
ITV News presenter Charlene White tweeted: “Seriously @vuecinemas?! Clearly an isolated incident at one of your locations, but you choose to blame @BlueStoryMovie & ban it from ALL your venues. Utterly ridiculous.”
Lewisham actor Vic Santoro, one of the stars Blue Story, said the film did not glorify street gangs or violence.
He said: “It is completely opposite to the stigma that’s been attached to it due to the unfortunate incident that took place in Birmingham.
“It casts light on the harsh reality of London. Hopefully it serves as a deterrent to young people, rather than encourage them.
“Is it so easy to take away our voice? That is why people are outraged – because of the hurdles Rapman had to go through to get this movie made.
“Do they think they can take it down and that will solve the problem? The problem is deeper than any film – or type of music. It is society as a whole. Banning it is not going to make one child better.”
Umar Kankiya, a solicitor and co-founder of the group Dope Black Dads, which aims to challenge negative perceptions of black fathers, said he felt there was “something a little bit more sinister underlying all of this”.
Kankiya has written to Vue to demand an explanation for the withdrawal, and threatened legal action, saying the cinema chain was “withholding the ability to show black art and black artists”.
He said: “Why have Vue Cinemas made that unilateral decision to withdraw the film from all 91 cinemas across the country?
“I can appreciate the incident happened in Birmingham – maybe there’s an issue there that they needed to address in that particular cinema – but they then took the decision to strip it away from all the other 90 cinemas across the country, and that’s where the issue lies.”
Vue said on Monday: “Despite a range of precautionary measures in place, including increased security, removal of late-night showings and reduced screenings of the film, the decision to withdraw Blue Story in its entirety was made on Saturday evening on grounds of safety alone.”
But a statement by Vue on Wednesday evening said: “We were disappointed to have to make the decision to remove Blue Story from our screens earlier this week, a decision to protect our customers and staff following major incidents connected with the film at 16 of our cinemas all across the country.
“We said at the time that this is a fantastic film and one with a very powerful message – that is why we wanted to show this film.
“We want to do that while ensuring, above all else, the safety of our customers and colleagues.
We also understand the powerful reaction to our decision, and we have spoken with interested parties, including the film producers, Paramount, our security advisors and, most importantly, our own operational teams who manage our cinemas on a day-to-day basis.
“Following an ongoing review of security to protect the safety of our staff and customers, we hope to be showing the film from this weekend with additional security arrangements in our cinemas to ensure everyone can enjoy the film in comfort and safety.”
Footage on social media appeared to show people fighting on Saturday night in the foyer area of the Star City cinema in Birmingham, where families and children were queuing to watch Frozen II.
Witnesses said some of those involved tried to force their way into screening rooms without paying.
A police spokesman said it was not believed there had been any violence inside a screening of Blue Story and that detectives were investigating whether the disorder was a “spontaneous coming together” or
a pre-arranged fight.
West Midlands police are investigating what sparked the fight involving up to 100 young people but said they were “not jumping to any conclusions” or formally connecting it to the film.
Chief Superintendent Steve Graham stressed that the force did not ask for the film to be withdrawn by Vue after the disturbance at the Star City leisure complex on Saturday night.
Six teenagers, including a 13-year-old girl and 14-year-old boy, were arrested after what West Midlands police described as “maybe the worst thing” its officers had seen.
Four of the teenagers arrested were held on suspicion of assaulting police and a fifth was held for obstructing police, all of whom were further arrested on suspicion of violent disorder.
Those five have been released on bail with conditions that ban them from leaving home at night and prohibit them from visiting Star City or any cinema in the UK.
Seven police officers sustained minor facial injuries and had to draw Tasers to bring the riot under control, as other people screamed and ran.
Police said two machetes and a knife were recovered from the scene. Further arrests would be made in the next 24 hours.
Another chain, Showcase, initially axed its showings at its 21 venues but then backtracked on Monday following discussions with its distributor, Paramount Pictures – and said it would now show it “supported with increased security protocols”.
Main Pic: From left, Stephen Odubola, Rapman and Michael Ward arriving at the premiere of Blue Story at the Curzon Mayfair cinema Picture: PA
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