Showcase Cinemas reinstates screenings of Blue Story as Vue stands by decision to pull film

  • Video report by ITV News Arts Editor Nina Nannar

Showcase Cinemas said it has reinstated screenings of gang film Blue Story, following a mass brawl at a cinema which resulted in police officers suffering injuries and five teenagers being arrested.

The cinema chain said it will being showing the film again, but with increased security.

The decision comes after Showcase Cinemas' initial decision to pull the film was met with anger.

Meanwhile, Vue cinema chain has stood by its decision to not show the film after more than "25 significant incidents" were reported during the first 24 hours of the film's opening.

However, police forces across the UK say they do not have any details of being called to any incidents linked to the film.

The decisions to pull the film - which is based on two friends from rival postcodes - came after a mass "machete" brawl at a screening in Birmingham on Saturday evening.

Gangs of youths, some armed with machetes, fought at the Star City cinema, with seven police officers injured in the clashes.

Five teenagers have been arrested, including a 13-year-old girl.

Speaking late on Monday, a spokesperson for Showcase Cinemas said: "We took the decision to temporarily suspend screenings of Blue Story to enable us to assess the situation.

"After careful consideration and discussions with the distributor in the last 24 hours, 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.

"We want to reassure our guests that their safety - and that of our staff members - is our absolute priority."

But Vue Cinemas, which runs Star City, said in a statement "more than 25 incidents were reported in 16 separate cinemas in the first 24 hours" since the film opened on Friday.

The cinema chain said it "is the biggest number we have ever seen for any film in such a short time frame" and the decision to ban the film was made on "grounds of safety alone".

A spokesperson 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.

She said they were unsure how many times police had been called out.

Vue strongly denied that the decision was taken due to concerns about the film's content, following allegations of racism on social media.

  • ITV News Arts Editor said the decision by cinema chains to pull Blue Story is "a major step"

A third cinema chain - Odeon - said it was reviewing security measures in light of the violent incidents.

An Odeon spokesperson said: "We are aware of reports of violence at cinemas which have been linked to the film Blue Story.

"The safety of our guests and colleagues is our number one priority. We have a number of security measures in place for this film, and are currently reviewing these along with our programming, in order to continue to put the safety of our guests first."

The move came as Blue Story’s writer and director, Andrew Onwubolu, condemned the incident and said that his film was about “love not violence”.

Onwubolu, also known as Rapman, described the incident as “truly unfortunate”.

Writing on Instagram on Sunday afternoon, he said: “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.”

Police officers inside the Star City cinema in Birmingham. Credit: PA

Blue Story actor Vic Santoro criticised the move to stop showing the films, saying a "deeper conversation" needs to be had to understand what is behind youth violence rather than just blaming Blue Story.

He told ITV News: "It sends a very misleading message to up and coming film makers, and actors, this is about letting young people from those environments know they can come from that and make something of your life."

But Culture Secretary Nicky Morgan said "it's absolutely right" cinema chains pull films which "lead to violence."

Speaking to ITV News Ms Morgan said: "I think it's absolutely right that cinema chains should make the decision about the films that they want to show, but if there are concerns actually a film is leading to violence to somehow overdramatising or making somehow more glamorous the lives of gangs, and that is a concern.

"But's absolutely right it's the cinema chains should make that decision."

BBC Films defended its product, saying Blue Story is an "important film", which aims to show the "futility of gang violence".

A spokesperson for BBC Films said: “We are appalled by the incident at Star City and our thoughts are with all those affected by it.

"Blue Story is an outstanding, critically acclaimed debut feature which powerfully depicts the futility of gang violence.

  • Cinemagoers react to the ban

"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 focuses on two friends from different south London postcodes who are on rival sides of a street war.

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

A number of cinemas have stopped showing the film. Credit: PA

Chief Superintendent Steve Graham, from the West Midlands Police, said: “It’s always hard to gauge these sorts of things – but what I will say is incidents like last night are rare.

“As for some officers who were there last night, it may be the worst thing they have ever seen.

“The way in which our officers responded last night meant that it was dealt with safely and moderately quickly.

“Ninety minutes might seem like a long time but the reason we did that was that we weren’t heavy-handed, we were proportionate, and we did need to make sure we distinguished between the ordinary members of the public who were there to enjoy themselves and some of those there who were intent on disorder.”

Vue said it recorded 25 significant incidents during the first 24 hours of the film showing.