Well, I guess that old saying about how no publicity is bad publicity isn’t true. Just ask the folks that made The Hunt.

After a bunch of controversy this week, the film’s distributor made the highly unusual decision to cancel its release entirely. When you now go to The Hunt’s official website, it takes you to the following statement:

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.

The movie, which was directed by the talented Craig Zobel (Compliance) and scheduled to open in theaters on September 27, first ran into trouble when its ads — featuring plenty of gun violence — began getting pulled from theaters and television channels in the wake of the recent spree of deadly shootings throughout the country. Then articles about the ads getting pulled which included details about the plot — which supposedly involves (per Deadline) “12 red-state strangers who wake up in a clearing and realize that they’re being hunted by liberal elites” — outraged prominent conservatives. Before long, the President himself was tweeting about how Hollywood was “racist” and “dangerous.” One day later, Universal announced The Hunt was over.

What happens next is unclear. Universal could theoretically sit on the movie for a while, wait until the controversy around it dies down, and try releasing it again — either in theaters, or on NBCUniversal’s upcoming streaming service. (Presumably at some point down the line, the fact that the movie was “too dangerous to be released in theaters” could actually be used as a selling point.) They could also sell the rights to distribute to the movie to another studio, or even a streaming service like Netflix, who might jump at the chance to have a hot-button title that’s sure to garner headlines and plenty of viewers. Or they could just toss the movie on a shelf, Ark of the Convenant in Raiders style, and never let it see the light of day. Given the talent involved — Zobel is a thoughtful filmmaker, and I am sure The Hunt would have been a lot more complex than its one-sentence description suggests — I personally hope that’s not The Hunt’s final fate.

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