Universal Officially Cancels Plans To Release Controversial Movie The Hunt

Betty Gilpin in The Hunt
(Image credit: (Universal))

Over the past few weeks, the nation has been mourning the loss of shooting victims in Gilroy, California; El Paso, Texas; and Dayton, Ohio – all while Universal and Blumhouse just launched their campaign for their newest thriller, The Hunt. Considering the film's subject matter -- characters on opposite sides of the political spectrum hunt each other down -- and recent public controversy surrounding the film, the studio decided to pull the release altogether. Check out Universal's official statement below:

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 decision comes just two days after the studio stopped marketing for The Hunt following the recent series of tragedies that led to 34 deaths. It makes sense for the studio to pull the release, considering the thriller centers on 12 random red-state strangers being hunted for sport by an elite group, led by Hilary Swank’s businesswoman character.

Universal began its marketing for The Hunt with the release of its first trailer on July 30, just days after a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival occurred on July 28, resulting in four deaths (including the gunman) and 13 other injuries at the California festivity. The tragedy resulted in a public outcry regarding gun violence and U.S. laws to carry them, including some aim taken at The Hunt as well.

Following were two more fatal shootings: one in Dayton, Ohio on August 4, resulting in ten deaths (also including the shooter) and 27 injuries; and the El Paso, Texas shooting, which happened just 13 hours later when a gunman murdered 22 people and injured 24 others in a Walmart.

President Donald Trump reportedly took aim at The Hunt on Friday over Twitter with the following tweets:

While President Trump doesn’t name The Hunt specifically, many believe the film sparked his comments, which were made just a day before Universal’s announcement to pull the movie. It’s currently unclear whether it will ever hit theaters. In Deadline’s report, it says the movie may find a place on Comcast’s upcoming streaming service someday.

The thriller is directed by Craig Zobel, who previously helmed 2012’s Compliance and Z for Zachariah in 2015. The Hunt is written by Netflix’s Maniac writer Nick Cuse and Lost writer Damon Lindelof. The pair have also teamed up before for The Leftovers and HBO’s upcoming Watchmen series. The film stars GLOW’s Betty Gilpin, Emma Roberts, This is Us’ Justin Hartley and Mindy Project’s Ike Barinholtz.

The Hunt leaves behind its September 27 release date, but Judy Garland biopic Judy and DreamWorks’ Abominable will come to theaters on that date.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.