Images from Universal Pictures: The Hunt

Following the recent shootings, and the controversy surrounding the content the studio has pulled the film from its release schedule.

In the wake of the recent shootings that transpired in El Paso Texas, and Dayton Ohio there has been controversy swirling around the prospective release of the thriller entitled “The Hunt”. Initial trailers had the movie appearing like a reimagination of a common plotline of people being hunted by others, in the vein of the classic “The Most Dangerous Game”.

Following the shootings, commercials for the film were halted, out of sensitivity. Word was just announced that the parent studio releasing the film, Universal Studios, has now decided to pull the movie entirely from its slated September 27 release date.

It was revealed this week that there was a unique aspect to this familiar storyline; the hunters were positioned as liberals, who would be hunting down a group of avowed conservatives/Trump supporters. (According to an advanced reading of the script one hunter refers to them as “Depolarables”.) Commonly this storyline does have the hunted individuals getting the better of their aggressors, meaning any MAGA supporters would ultimately triumph, but this does little to blunt the message of leftists violently hunting those on the right.

As I speculated on Thursday there was a likelihood of Universal pulling this title. There would be little they could defend in releasing the film into what is a very emotionally-charged marketplace. As this week showed as well, there was plenty of negatively-charged reactions on social media. Some took exception to the violent presentation of social opposition, and others simply said this type of gun-centric storyline was not proper at this moment.

One other factor behind this was surely the media would be struggling with how to spin this as a non-threatening film. They have busied themselves for months suggesting that words spoken by conservative leaders were tantamount to “violent rhetoric”; it would be a real struggle for them to them explain how showing actual political divisions on screen with guns was NOT some form of provocation.

Recognizing the sensitivities of the timing and the PR challenges in the marketplace led to the statement being released today.

“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, ” a spokesperson for Universal said in a statement. “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.”

September is one of the softer segments on the release calendar, so pulling a film from that date is not too surprising. It presents at least a lowered amount of a risk from a revenue perspective, as opposed to missing out on a holiday release date. Look for the possibility of it being rescheduled to January, or February 2020 — another low-point on the calendar.