An Australian movie theater accidentally played a trailer for R-rated horror movie Hereditary before a screening of PG-rated family film Peter Rabbit, terrifying a theater full of families and "at least 40 children," the Sydney Morning Herald reports.
Families assembled for a showing of the half-animated, half-live action Peter Rabbit at Event Cinemas in Innaloo, Western Australia received a shock when the lights dimmed and a Hereditary preview terrified younger moviegoers — forcing some to flee the theater in terror.
The unsettling trailer, from The Witch producers A24, includes imagery of a corpse laid in a casket, scissors slicing into the neck of a freshly dead pigeon, a teen slamming his head into a desk with bloody results, and a man set aflame.
Hereditary's haunting two-minute trailer hails it as "this generation's The Exorcist," a stark contrast to the kid-friendly Peter Rabbit, which stars James Corden and Daisy Ridley as CG-animated rabbits in a modern take on Beatrix Potters' beloved literary tales.
"The first trailer that was shown was for Hereditary, a horror movie that even I wouldn't go see," said one of the moviegoers, dubbed 'Jane.'
"It was dreadful. Very quickly you could tell this was not a kid's film. Parents were yelling at the projectionist to stop, covering their kids' eyes and ears," Jane said, reporting some parents "fled the cinema with their kids in tow."
"Eventually a senior staff member came in with a walkie talkie and he shut the screen off," she said. "To his credit he apologized and offered us complimentary movie passes to make up for it."
The theater supplied patrons with free passes that had expired that day.
"We had been told they were valid for a month but they were out of date," Jane said. "Don't get me wrong, I understand mistakes happen. But surely there should be checks to make sure trailers like that don't get shown. And the free passes thing just added insult to injury."
She continued: "A lot of the kids were upset, and if you think back to your own childhood you remember things that scared you when you saw them for the first time. I still remember the first time I saw a robber on TV."
A spokesman for Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited, Event Cinema's parent company, reported the incident is being "investigated internally to ensure situations like this do not occur again."
As soon as onsite staff were made aware of the error, the spokesman said, "the trailers were taken off-screen immediately and all patrons were given complimentary tickets as a gesture of goodwill."
The makeup passes will be honored through April 25, 2019.1comments
A24's official Twitter account cheekily offered to consider "subsidizing their child therapy" for the affected moviegoers.
Sony's Peter Rabbit opened in February, grossing $310 million worldwide. Hereditary opens June 8.