blumhouse the hunt
[Photo via YouTube]

Last weekend, two mass shootings happened within hours of each other. Shortly after, ads for the gun-centric Universal and Blumhouse horror film The Hunt began to be pulled.

Now, it’s being reported that Universal has canceled the Sept. 27 theatrical release of the film following public outcry from both consumers and President Donald Trump.

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On Aug. 3, a gunman killed 22 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Hours later, another gunman opened fire in Dayton, Ohio, killing 9 in the city’s nightlife district.

Just prior to the two acts of violence, Blumhouse released a full trailer for their upcoming film The Hunt, which spotlights an elite liberal group hunting a group of conservative strangers for sport.

Produced by Jason Blum (Get Out, The Purge) and Damon Lindelof (The Leftovers, Lost), the film stars Ike Barinholtz, Betty Gilpin (Netflix’s Glow), Emma Roberts, Hilary Swank and Justin Hartley (This Is Us). Universal Pictures describes the film as follows:

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Twelve strangers wake up in a clearing. They don’t know where they are, or how they got there. They don’t know they’ve been chosen… for a very specific purpose … The Hunt. In the shadow of a dark internet conspiracy theory, a bunch of elites gathers for the very first time at a remote Manor House to hunt humans for sport. But the elites’ master plan is about to be derailed because one of the hunted, Crystal (Gilpin), knows The Hunters’ game better than they do. She turns the tables on the killers, picking them off, one by one, as she makes her way toward the mysterious woman (Swank) at the center of it all.

On Friday, shortly after news of the pulled ads, Trump took to Twitter to voice his opinion on the matter.

“Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!” he says. “They like to call themselves “Elite,” but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!”

On Saturday, the Universal team, led by Chairman Donna Langley, and The Hunt filmmaking team announced they were pulling the release. The studio released a statement, which you can read below.

“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. 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.”

Hilary Swank, one of the film’s stars, also released a statement on Universal’s decision, according to Deadline.

“I fully support the decision by Universal and the filmmakers regarding The Hunt,” the statement reads.“It is a choice that I also personally felt was necessary. I can’t comprehend the violence happening in our county right now. We should all focus on healing, and above all else, kindness, sensitivity and humanity.”

Neither Universal nor Blumhouse have revealed specific future plans for the film. Whether it will go straight to streaming or secure a later theatrical release remains to be seen.

More on Blumhouse and The Hunt

Following the shootings last weekend, The Hollywood Reporter revealed Blumhouse and Universal were reevaluating their marketing plan. Last Saturday, ESPN pulled the film’s ad, which featured an opening scene with an emergency broadcast signal. However, AMC still ran with an ad for the film during The Preacher last Sunday night.

A Disney rep declined to comment on pulling the ad from ESPN, but they told THR that no TV spots would appear for the film in the coming weeks. Universal and Blumhouse declined to officially comment, but an unnamed “high-level Universal Source” did give THR an update.

The anonymous source revealed the studio pulled online ads “for content and placement,” while other sources tell the site it’s still being discussed internally.

“A high-level insider” revealed executives want to stand by Blum and view the project as a satire addressing a social issue. However, the same source says plans could change “if people think we’re being exploitative rather than opinionated.” The Universal source stated a major ad push was scheduled for early September.

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This isn’t the first time a film’s marketing has been affected by real-life tragedy. A similar instance arose last fall with Blumhouse’s Happy Death Day 2U.

This past September, the film’s release date was set for Feb. 14, 2019. While many view the date as Valentine’s Day, it’s also a day where many members of the Parkland, Florida community lost their lives.

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On Feb. 14, 2018, a shooter opened fire in Stoneman Douglas High School, killing 17 and injuring 17 others. Since then, survivors haven’t sat by idly, launching efforts for gun control including March For Our Lives.

Fred Guttenburg’s 14-year-old daughter Jaime was one of the victims. He took to social media to voice his concerns over the horror film’s planned release date. Guttenburg spoke with film executives who agreed to move the release date to Feb. 13 and suspend advertising and showings in Parkland.

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