Why Universal Decided to Cancel The Hunt Revealed

Things are getting so divisive in American society that even movies are not immune to catching major political blowback simply for advertising a premise that people do not like. Case in point: Blumhouse Productions' planned fall release, The Hunt.

By now you've probably heard about the controversy over The Hunt - even if you haven't heard of the film itself. The Hunt made headlines when Universal Pictures dropped it from the fall release slate, with rumors and speculation citing everything from controversy over the level of gun violence The Hunt depicts, as well the characterization of those on the receiving end of the bullets.

Of course rumors and speculation are just that. Now, a new report claims to reveal the actual reasoning behind the The Hunt's cancelled release.

THR has a feature on what happened with The Hunt, and reveals the following information about the reasoning behind the decision not to release it in theaters:

"On the evening of Aug. 6, Universal Pictures held a test screening of its thriller-satire The Hunt... It was the second such screening, and some test audience members were again expressing discomfort with the politics of the Jason Blum-produced film...

...Following [a story] on the altering of the film's marketing plan in the wake of a trio of mass shootings, Universal executives and the filmmakers began receiving death threats via email and on social media and immediately paused the campaign altogether.

Sources say the studio's internal security force became involved, but outside law enforcement was not alerted. It appears that Universal did not foresee the maelstrom to come, including round-the-clock Fox News segments and tweets by President Trump seemingly directed at the title.

In the current climate, where one of the mass shooters parroted anti-immigrant talking points of the right in an online manifesto while another espoused violent left-wing ideology, the film formerly titled Red State vs. Blue State seemed to throw a match on gasoline. By Aug. 10, the studio had scrapped the release entirely, leaving its future in limbo (sources in the international film community say they are still interested in releasing it)."

So there you have it: a perfect storm of political vitriol and public anguish over a new string of mass shootings made Universal and Blumhouse feel that maybe it wasn't a great idea to let The Hunt become a lightning rod for America's current culture wars. While it's easy to be cynical about the studio's reasoning (they didn't think it would make enough money), given recent events it's understandable of Universal doesn't even want to take a chance on executives and/or filmmakers facing threats of harm, or possibly inspiring some would-be terrorist to air his/her grievance with The Hunt by attacking a theater where the film is showing.

While the move to pull the film could be commended, it certainly raises one main question (which THR admittedly addresses): Why make the film at all? The original Red State vs. Blue State title says that the studio clearly knew the volatile angle that director Craig Zobel and writers Damon Lindelolf and Nick Cuse were going for; additional reporting from THR states that the studio had reservations about reactions to the project since the beginning, and had purposefully buried The Hunt's true storyline and political themes in early marketing for the film. In fact, it's said that things went so far as to challenge the resolve of studio heads, who weren't going to back down until the mass shootings changed the entire optics of the film. So clearly stoking the fires of cultural outrage was entirely the point - until that dumpster fire blew up into a full-on wildfire, which studio execs worried would burn them down.

...Of course you can't keep a greedy movie studio down for too long! There are already whispers that The Hunt will get some kind of other release down the line, as even THR notes that Blumhouse has agreed to "scrap it for now and move forward."

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Would you like to see The Hunt released in some form or fashion, or should it rightfully be forgotten? Let us know in the comments!

The Hunt currently has no release date.