- Universal Pictures/YouTube
- Universal announced on Saturday that it was pulling the release of its thriller, “The Hunt,” and did not say if it would ever be shown.
- The movie, produced by Blumhouse, follows 12 strangers who are hunted by a group of rich elites.
- The studio stopped the marketing campaign for the movie following the recent mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California.
- But many in the movie business believe that President Trump recently calling Hollywood “really terrible” and “racist,” as well as tweeting, “the movie coming out is made in order … to inflame and cause chaos,” was directed toward “The Hunt.”
- Business Insider spoke to Hollywood producers and others in the industry, some of whom said if the movie was pulled because of Trump’s remarks that sets a bad precedent.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
On Saturday, Universal announced that it was pulling the September 27 release of its thriller, “The Hunt.”
The latest movie from Blumhouse Productions follows 12 strangers who suddenly wake up in a remote location and learn they have been chosen to be hunted in a game by a group of rich elites. It stars “Glow” star Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, and Hilary Swank. The movie is directed by Craig Zobel (“Compliance,” episodes of HBO’s “The Leftovers”).
Universal halted the marketing for the movie following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; and Gilroy, California in early August. Now the studio has taken the movie off its slate entirely, with no indication of when it will be released.
“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,” Universal said in a statement that went out on Saturday. “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.”
But the motivation to not release the movie is one that has some producers and executives in Hollywood concerned, they told Business Insider.
Many industry insiders believe President Trump was referring to “The Hunt” when he called Hollywood “really terrible” and “racist” on Friday, and later that day tweeted, “the movie coming out is made in order … to inflame and cause chaos.”
“If this is about Dayton and El Paso, I get it,” one producer told Business Insider of Universal’s decision. “It’s hard to market a movie about Americans hunting Americans after such tragedies. And it would simply be as insensitive as it would be ill-advised. However, if Trump’s specific Tweets had anything to do with it, f— that.”
This is not the first time Trump has pointed the finger at Hollywood following a mass shooting. In the wake of the Parkland school shooting in 2018, which lead to 17 deaths, the president blamed the amount of violence in video games and movies.
“You see these movies, they’re so violent, and yet a kid is able to see the movie,” Trump said at the time. “If sex isn’t involved, but killing is involved. And maybe they have to put a rating system for that, and you get into a whole very complicated, very big deal.”
‘Respectful’ or ‘cowardly’?
Hollywood often delays the release of a movie if it mirrors a national tragedy.
The biggest example was after the terrorist attacks on September 11, 2001. Following those events, the release for the Arnold Schwarzenegger movie “Collateral Damage,” which featured a terrorist bombing in front of a building in LA, was postponed four months. The release of the Tim Allen comedy “Big Trouble,” which involved a nuclear bomb being smuggled onto an airplane, was postponed seven months during the same time period.
“I think it was respectful to curb the marketing in the wake of the shootings but to pull ‘The Hunt’ completely, assumedly as a result of Trump’s tweets, sets a bad precedent and looks cowardly,” said one Hollywood executive, who characterized what happened to “The Hunt” as the latest example of a studio having a knee-jerk reaction to social media – like when Disney fired James Gunn from directing ‘Guardians of the Galaxy 3’ after offensive tweets he wrote in 2010 and 2011 resurfaced in July 2018 (he was rehired in March 2019).
“Thinking from the studio side, the fear might be more financial, losing that audience as a result of Trump’s tweets, than concerns of being socially responsible,” this person continued.” With that said, they should have braved that week’s tweetstorm, which would be quickly replaced and forgotten by the next week’s madness, and released as planned. It gives in to Trump in a way that makes it look like he won and sends an overall message that he, or any president for that matter, has the power to dictate how and with what we are entertained.”
“What makes this different from any of ‘The Purge’ movies?” the exec went on to say. “Yes, they make statements but the intended purpose is to deliver high concept entertainment for a wide audience, it’s what makes a movie right for a studio versus being independent. And many of these films do big numbers in red states for an audience that enjoys the entertainment value. ‘The Hunt’ situation could just be bad timing combined with a political flare, and things will revert to normal. But who will be the maverick studio that supports filmmakers and free speech in the current era? Or will anything with something real to say be relegated to the indie space?”
But some said they thought the movie would eventually get released.
“This film will get released, either by Universal or if the studio sells it,” one industry insider predicted about “The Hunt.” “Based on the trailer, this certainly looks reminiscent of the highly successful ‘Purge’ movies. And Blumhouse is a force.”