Universal Pictures on Saturday canceled plans to release “The Hunt” — a thriller about a group of “globalist elites” killing people for sport — after two recent mass shootings that left a total of 31 people dead in El Paso and in Dayton, Ohio.
“The Hunt,” which stars Betty Gilpin, Hilary Swank and Emma Roberts, was scheduled to be released on Sept. 27.
“While Universal Pictures had already paused the marketing campaign for ‘The Hunt,’ after thoughtful consideration, the studio has decided to cancel our plans to release the film,” said a statement from Universal Pictures posted to the film’s website. “We stand by our filmmakers and will continue to distribute films in partnership with bold and visionary creators, like those associated with this satirical social thriller, but we understand that now is not the right time to release this film.”
A spokeswoman for Blumhouse Productions, the company behind the movie and others like “The Purge” and “Get Out,” said it was not issuing a statement. It was not clear if the movie might be released at some later date.
“The Hunt” follows a group of people who in the movie’s trailer declare, “We pay for everything, so this country belongs to us.” For sport, they set out to hunt people they kidnap, dropping them off at an undisclosed location. The trailer prominently featured people being shot.
The studio’s decision to cancel its release came after 31 people were killed in two mass shootings last weekend.
The first happened on Saturday at a crowded Walmart in El Paso, where a man armed with an AK-style rifle gunned down 22 people. Early on Sunday morning, nine people died when a gunman opened fire on a crowd gathered on the sidewalk of a busy entertainment district in Dayton.
On Friday, President Trump alluded to “The Hunt” on Twitter without specifically naming it. He said it was made “in order to inflame and cause chaos.”
“Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!” he wrote. “They like to call themselves ‘Elite,’ but they are not Elite.”
He continued: “They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”
Mr. Trump also briefly mentioned Hollywood and was possibly alluding to the film in remarks before departing from the South Lawn on Friday.
“Hollywood is really terrible,” Mr. Trump said, according to a transcript. “You talk about racist — Hollywood is racist. What they’re doing, with the kind of movies they’re putting out — it’s actually very dangerous for our country. What Hollywood is doing is a tremendous disturbance to our country.”
Universal had already announced plans this week to temporarily suspend its marketing for the film “out of sensitivity to the attention on the country’s recent shooting tragedies,” it said in a statement. It said it was “reviewing materials as we move forward.”
It’s not the first time that headlines about violence have affected the release of a movie.
In 2001, Arnold Schwarzenegger’s action movie “Collateral Damage,” which had a terrorism theme and was scheduled to be released after the Sept. 11 attacks, was postponed until the following year.
The next year, the release of “Phone Booth,” a thriller about a deranged sniper, was postponed by 20th Century Fox over worries that its plot closely mirrored real-life sniper shootings in the Washington area that left 10 people dead over three weeks.
A few years prior, a “Buffy” television finale was yanked because of the similarities it had between it and the mass shooting at Columbine High School in Colorado.