ESPN has pulled a trailer for Universal Pictures and Blumhouse’s The Hunt – a movie reportedly featuring liberal elites hunting red state “deplorables” for sport – over the weekend, a decision influenced by the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton, that left over 30 dead and several dozen wounded.
An ESPN source confirmed that the film’s trailers will no longer air on the network, according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Over the Aug. 3 weekend, ESPN pulled an ad for the film that it had previously cleared, while AMC ran the spot during the season premiere of its drama The Preacher. It’s unclear whether the ads were identical, but the one yanked by ESPN opened with a sound resembling an emergency broadcast signal. A rep for ESPN parent Disney declined to comment on the move, but an ESPN source says no spots for the film will appear on the network in the coming weeks.
The film, which has been described as a gory satire featuring actresses Hilary Swank and Betty Gilpin, follows a group of elites who stalk and murder conservatives in red states. The hunters are fueled by their hatred of the “MAGA-type” characters and their right-leaning positions. While the term “deplorables” may not be explicitly stated in the trailer, Daily Mail notes that the “hunted” were, in fact, described as “deplorables” in the screenplay.
“The film was originally called Red State Vs. Blue State,” the Daily Mail reports.
It is not clear whether the filmmakers are sympathetic to the “Deplorables” or the “hunters.” Nevertheless, Blumhouse founder Jason Blum is a notorious Trump-hater who was booed off stage at the 32nd Israeli Film Festival in Los Angeles last year after blaming the president for the rise of anti-Semitism.
“A lot is on the line, the last two years have been hard for all of us who cherish the freedom as citizens of this country,” the BlacKkKlansman producer said, triggering boos. “As you can see from this auditorium, it’s the end of civil discourse. We have a president who calls the press the enemy of the people. Thanks to our president, antisemitism is on the rise.”
As Breitbart News reported:
Blum’s hit on President Trump was seemingly the final straw for Beverly Hills Pawn star Yossi Dina, who walked up to the Blumhouse Productions founder and attempted to physically remove him from the stage.
As Blum was being booed, he told the crowd, “And now I’m being physically removed, which is why Trump is not the right guy for us.”
Despite the controversy, executives reportedly intend to stand by Blum, as they view the film as “a satire addressing an issue of great social importance.”
As the Hollywood Reporter notes:
While one high-level Universal source says the studio has pulled some ads that are beginning to air and appear online “for content and placement,” others say the matter is still under discussion internally. A major ad blitz on television and the web had been planned for the beginning of September, says one insider. A trailer is already online.
Given the fraught political climate — particularly in the wake of the attack in El Paso, which was motivated by anti-immigrant bigotry — studio sources say Universal is evaluating its plans in what one called “a fluid situation.” A high-level insider says top executives want to stand by Blum, one of the studio’s most prolific and successful producers, as well as filmmaker Craig Zobel, and see the project as a satire addressing an issue of great social importance. But this person says plans could change “if people think we’re being exploitative rather than opinionated.”
From a business perspective, The Hunt presents a gamble for Universal in these divided times. The satire Assassination Nation, which also pitted the woke versus the unwoke in uber-violent fashion, represented the top sale at Sundance 2018 at $10 million. But the film fizzled upon its release later that year, earning just $2 million with no international rollout. Says one person involved with that film, “We thought people would get the joke.”
The Hunt is scheduled to debut September 27.