Showcase Cinemas follow Vue’s lead by deciding to pull Andrew Onwubolu’s Blue Story (updated)

Rapman’s debut film has now lost over 100 sites in the space of two days

24 hours after Vue cinemas announced they would be pulling Andrew Onwubolu’s Blue Story from 91 of its sites, Showcase Cinemas today announced they would be following suit and removing it from all 21 chains currently hosting the film.

Six teenagers were arrested in Birmingham after a fight broke out during a screening of Frozen 2 at the Star City cinema in Birmingham, which led to the arrests and a number of police officers being injured.

Neither Vue nor Showcase have come out to say why they believe Blue Story was linked to the violence that occurred in Star City. The longer their silence continues, the more it will be filled with suggestions of institutionalised racism, even though it is difficult to believe it could be for any other reason.

Films made by, and about, people of colour are hard enough to get made and distributed in the UK, let alone one that secures a national release on the scale of Blue Story. It originally played in 311 cinemas across UK and Ireland, with 291 of those located in the UK and Vue, Showcase, Cineworld and Empire accounting for 267 of those sites.

The removal of 112 cinemas from the distribution chain has resulted in Blue Story losing 36% of its sites in the space of two days. The ban is apparently not based on ‘official’ police advice and now means Onwubolu’s film faces an uphill struggle to claim a strong return at the box office.

Early reports have stated it took an impressive £1.3 million across the opening weekend, which is equal to the film’s reported production budget. The general belief is that a film has to make at least twice its production budget to turn a profit (accounting for marketing/distribution costs, although tax breaks and other factors play their part) and the cancelling of the film on so many screens combined with such bad press will seriously hinder Blue Story‘s chances of success.

Racism is already rife across the British film industry and decisions like this could make it even more difficult for non-white filmmakers to secure the funding and distribution they need to give UK cinema audiences a wider variety of stories and voices that is representative of modern society.

Odeon – the second largest cinema chain in the UK after Cineworld – have said they are ‘reviewing’ the situation with regards to the security and safety measures they currently have in place.

UPDATE: Vue have since released a statement about the withdrawal of the film from its cinemas, saying that “during the first 24 hours of the film, over 25 significant incidents were reported in 16 separate cinemas”. The statement went on to say “This is the biggest number we have ever seen for any film in such a short time frame.”

Here is their statement in full:

“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 22nd November, 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 a such a short time frame. 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.

“While we are disappointed that these are the actions we have had to take, we hope it is understandable that we cannot, and will not, take any risks with regard to the welfare and safety of our staff and our customers.

“Unfortunately, the actions of a significant few have spoiled the opportunity for others, but we stand by our decision to withdraw the film from our schedule indefinitely.

“This decision is not, as some have alleged, based on biased assumptions or concern about the content of the film itself. At Vue, we believe passionately in bringing people together and using the power of the big screen experience to entertain, educate and inspire all of our audiences.

“Blue Story is a fantastic film and one with a very powerful message. It is a film that has the opportunity to change lives. We hope that Blue Story achieves the success it deserves and importantly its message does not get lost.”

Although a very carefully worded statement, Vue fail to clarify what ‘significant incidents’ mean and why, even after police have not ‘officially’ given advice to ban the film in their cinemas, they still felt it necessary to do so.

Paramount have also remained worryingly silent and you’d have to wonder in both cases if this was an awards film – like Joker for example – and not lazily stereotyped for a certain demographic, would the film still be in cinemas right now? We all know the answer to that.

FURTHER UPDATE: According to a new tweet from Onwubolu this evening, Showcase have reinstated the film to their screens.

Blue Story is still available to watch right now in over 200 cinemas across the UK and Ireland.

Steven Sheehan

Updated: Nov 25, 2019

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Showcase Cinemas follow Vue’s lead by deciding to pull Andrew Onwubolu’s Blue Story (updated) | The Digital Fix