Blue Story will return to screens following a backlash about it being pulled, Vue Cinemas’ chief executive has announced, as he insisted race was never part of the equation.
The gang story was withdrawn from Vue after seven police officers were injured in a disturbance at Star City in Birmingham on Saturday, where there were reports of youths with machetes.
However, director Andrew Onwubolu told BBC Breakfast there was “no connection” between the Birmingham brawl and his movie, and questioned whether there were “hidden reasons”.
It has also been suggested that the decision to cancel the screenings was racially motivated.
Tim Richards, founder and chief executive of Vue International, told the PA news agency they “agonised” over the decision to pull the film, but had to prioritise the safety of staff and customers after 25 incidents at 16 cinemas.
He said a number of the incidents took place on Friday.
“Birmingham was part of our decision, but just a part of it,” he said.
Richards went on: “I have spent 20 years of my life supporting and promoting diversity and British and independent film.
“To call me personally or corporately racist is very, very disturbing and with no merit at all.
“Racism does not enter into the equation at all. Never has. It’s the opposite.”
Richards said he knew Blue Story was “an important movie” and that he had never wanted to withdraw it.
He said that between Vue, the producers, Paramount and community groups, there was now “a game plan” to reinstate the film before the weekend.
“That’s really our belief in the film and the message that the movie has,” he said.
“We’ve listened to the community and we know that this is an important movie for people to see.”
Richards also said the discussion was not about Vue or the film.
He said: “The whole discussion is about why are teenagers leaving their homes with machetes, with knives, when they go out.
“That’s what the discussion is about. That’s a broader discussion, and not a movie industry discussion, it’s a social discussion in Britain.”
Vue said in a statement: “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 advisers 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.”
The company said that during the first 24 hours of screenings, Vue recorded 25 incidents, which they said were significant and directly related, in 16 cinemas.
These were documented with CCTV footage, police call logs, and detailed incident reports to security or medical authorities, and in a dozen of those incidents, the police had to be called.