A lethal rash of violence that marred the opening of “Boyz N the Hood,” a movie depicting the struggles of growing up in South-Central Los Angeles, prompted several theaters Saturday to cancel the feature and many others to increase security amid fears of a repeat of Friday night’s bloodshed.
Eleven people were wounded, one critically, as gunfire erupted in and around three Southern California theaters. Elsewhere, a Chicago man was killed, a Sacramento woman was severely wounded and many other people suffered injuries in at least 25 violent incidents as the film opened in more than 800 theaters nationwide.
The mayhem--largely blamed on street hoodlums by law enforcement authorities--triggered panic among theatergoers and a hectic search for suspects by police.
By 9:30 p.m. Saturday, no major incidents had been reported locally or nationally and beefed up security remained on the lookout for trouble.
There were no incidents reported at any of the 10 Orange County theaters showing “Boyz N the Hood,” according to police.
However, officials in at least two cities said they planned to increase their presence because of reports of violence in other areas.
The film is being shown at Edwards theaters in Costa Mesa, El Toro, Mission Viejo and Westminster. It is also playing at the Pacific Buena Park Drive-In, Mann’s Pierside Pavilion in Huntington Beach, the Cinedome Eight and Stadium 8 Drive-In, both in Orange and at United Artists theaters in Brea and Buena Park.
“I think people are more tense (following Friday’s incidents) so we are going to be more visible and have more patrols out there” said Westminster Police Lt. Richard Main. “We want anyone going to know that if they choose to be obnoxious, we will be there to settle it.”
Costa Mesa officials said they too would increase security--but in a discreet fashion, said Police Sgt. Jerry Holloway.
“We are aware of the times when people are waiting in line and when the movies will let out and will have officers available in the area,” said Holloway. “We’re not going to make a big deal of it by showing a large presence but we will monitor the situation from a distance.”
Theater owners could not be reached for comment Saturday about their own security plans. A woman who identified herself as the manager of the Pacific Buena Park Drive-In said she was not authorized to discuss security arrangements.
Friday’s violence prompted the movie makers to defend “Boyz N the Hood” as a work of art that intends to deliver a message of peace. A visibly shaken John Singleton, the film’s 23-year-old African-American writer and director, expressed sympathy for victims and appealed to the perpetrators for an end to the violence.
At a hastily called news conference at the Four Seasons Hotel in Beverly Hills, Singleton, who grew up in the neighborhoods depicted in the drama, said the acts of violence were “indicative of the degeneration of American society, not a reflection of my film, which is about family, love and friendship.”
Wearing a baseball cap marked with words “Boyz N the Hood/Increase the Peace,” Singleton placed blame on a society that “breeds illiteracy and economic deprivation. . . . There’s a whole generation of people who are disenfranchised.”
Asked what he would say to those who have caused the violence, Singleton said: “There’s a certain segment of the population that wants you to do what you’re doing to each other. But we don’t have time for that.
“I won’t turn my back on my brothers,” Singleton said. He expressed hope that they would not “turn their back on me.”
Singleton disputed suggestions that the film had been marketed as a “gang” picture and echoed distributor Columbia Picture’s earlier statement that the advertising campaign was “based in reality.”
Columbia Pictures Chairman Frank Price defended “Boyz” as “an important film with a strong anti-violent, anti-gang, pro-family message.” Columbia, the film’s distributor, had already paid for additional theater security and offered to supply more.
Despite the violent incidents, one source at Columbia said the film did opening day business of about $3.2 million--a good showing by industry measures.
It was unclear how many theaters decided to pull the feature. A Columbia spokesman said they knew of only eight. That includes two key Los Angeles locations, the Universal City Cineplex Odeon and Manns Chinese Theatre in Hollywood. Although screenings of “Boyz N the Hood” won praise from critics for its artistic merit and its anti-violent message, the film’s release stirred fears that, like such previous movies as “New Jack City” and “Colors,” it would attract hoodlums.
The worst fears were realized Friday with shootings at theaters in Universal City, Upland and Chino, as well as communities far from the gang turfs of Los Angeles. Shootings were reported in San Francisco, Sacramento, Minneapolis, Riverdale, Ill., Tuscaloosa, Ala. and New Springfield, Mass. Melees and scuffles occurred at theaters in Hollywood, Riverside and other communities as well.
In several instances, audiences never had a chance to consider the film’s message. At the 18-screen Cineplex Odeon in Universal City, members of the audience were settling into their seats when three shots rang out and chaos ensued.
“The lights went down and the screen lit up and then it just went crazy. There was gunfire. I don’t know where exactly but real close,” said 19-year-old Rafael, who declined to give his full name. “I don’t know these guys personally but this could come back to me.”
Rafael said gunmen pursued other youths throughout the building. “These guys were just chasing each other all over.”
Two 17-year-old girls from Lake View Terrace, Leteia and Yalonda, said they were in a neighboring theater watching “Terminator 2" when several youths they believed to be gang members rushed into their theater with armed rivals in pursuit.
“We saw people running past us with guns,” Leteia said. “We knew we should get the hell out of there--but where? It was too crazy.”
Five people were wounded in gunfire in and around the theater and a nearby parking garage, a Sheriff’s Department spokesman said. They were identified as Trevon Boyd, 17; Andrew Adkins, 17; Deaun Allen, 17; Derrick Hubbard, 21, and Duane Springs, 22. All are Los Angeles area residents. None of the wounds was life-threatening, hospital officials said.
Sheriff’s Sgt. Larry Lincoln said the motive for the shootings was unclear. No suspects were in custody Saturday.
In Chino, a shooting at the Movies 8 complex left John Lewis, 19, of Chino in critical condition in Loma Linda Hospital. Another victim, Antwan Woods, 18, was being treated for a leg wound. No suspects were in custody, police said.
In Upland, four people were wounded when shooting started during what police described as a confrontation between rival Pomona gangs.
A 33-year-old Upland man who was shot in the back and a 16-year-old Pomona girl who was shot in the leg were in fair condition. Two others sufferred minor wounds.
Two men and one juvenile were booked for attempted murder, police said. The men were identified as Billy Hunter, 24, and James Robins, 21, both of Pomona.
Times staff writers David J. Fox and Carla Rivera and Times wire services contributed to this story.