Hoping to respond “in a positive way” to the violence that occurred in Westwood last Saturday, the producers of “New Jack City” said Friday that Warner Bros., the film’s distributor, is paying for extra security at theaters requesting it.
The movie, which depicts the rise and fall of a Harlem drug lord, drew large crowds and sold $7 million in tickets when it opened last weekend in 860 theaters.
However, the opening was also marred by incidents of violence in New York, San Francisco, Houston and Las Vegas. In New York, a man was fatally shot at a Brooklyn theater where the movie was playing and the film was pulled from a theater in San Francisco and one in Houston after incidents there.
In Los Angeles’ Westwood district, where a late-night showing was sold out, a rampage erupted when people who had been waiting in line to buy tickets for up to two hours were turned away from the Mann Westwood Theater.
The melee, involving hundreds of youths, resulted in smashed windows, vandalized cars and looted stores. Mann Theaters subsequently pulled the film from the Westwood theater, which was not damaged. But the film continues to play at other Mann locations, as well as on dozens of other Southern California screens.
On Friday, producers George Jackson and Doug McHenry said they believe their film makes a strong statement against violence and drugs. Jackson said he and his partner were afraid “that the message was being lost in all the publicity.” They said they had taken their concerns to Warner Bros., which agreed to offer to pay for security for any theater requesting it.
The producers said Warner Bros. also contacted all theaters about the potential for large crowds and in some cases was able to move the movie into bigger theaters by this weekend. They said the total number of screens was increased to 900.
A spokeswoman for Warner Bros. said Friday that the studio is following “a routine procedure when it has an action film that goes into high-volume, urban theaters. It’s to our common benefit to have the security.”
The studio said the extra security was available to the Mann Westwood Theater for last weekend’s opening when the violence erupted. A spokesman for Mann Theaters declined to comment late Friday on the security arrangements.
Jackson and McHenry complained that news coverage of last week’s incidents has distorted the public’s impression of the movie. In an effort get their point of view out, they said the public relations firm that managed crisis control on the controversial movies “The Last Temptation of Christ” and “Do the Right Thing,” Edelman Public Relations, has been hired to work on “New Jack City.”
New radio, television and newspaper advertisements for the movie proclaim the film’s critical success and anti-drug sentiment.
“In the television spots, we have people saying, ‘It’s safe to see and be cool when you go see it,’ ” Jackson said.
“This is an anti-drug gangster film that has a cop as its hero,” said McHenry. “We’ve done more to help the public relations of policemen than anything (Los Angeles Police Chief) Daryl Gates has ever done.”
Warner Bros. said the studio typically extends offers to pay for security at theaters in the Los Angeles, New York, Detroit, Chicago and San Francisco markets. For “New Jack City,” the spokeswoman said, “a handful of other big-city theaters” had requested additional security this weekend.
“New Jack City” stars Wesley Snipes as a ruthless drug lord who is pursued by policemen played by rap star Ice-T and actor Judd Nelson.