Entertainment

'The Hunt' is on: Universal sets March release date for controversial satire

Key Points
  • "The Hunt" was due to hit theaters on Sept. 27 and will now arrive on March 13.
  • Universal had canceled the release of "The Hunt" after shooting massacres in Ohio and Texas in August killed 31 people and wounded dozens of others.
  • The premise of the film was also criticized by Fox News and Fox Business at the time, which called the premise "sick" and "twisted."
A scene from Universal's "The Hunt"
Universal Pictures

More than six months after Universal pulled "The Hunt" from its September 2019 opening, the controversial satire finally has a new release date.

The film is about a group of globalist elites who pay large amounts of money to hunt people for sport. Their game gets turned on its head when the hunted become the hunters.

Universal had canceled the release of "The Hunt" after shooting massacres in Ohio and Texas in August killed 31 people and wounded dozens of others.

The film was due to hit theaters on Sept. 27 and will now arrive on March 13.

"The Hunt" had an estimated production budget of just under $20 million and was produced by Blumhouse. Blumhouse is best known for taking small-budget films and turning them into huge box-office successes. The studio has produced such hits as "Paranormal Activity" and the Academy Award-winning "Get Out."

While the impetus to remove the film from its original release date was a series of shooting massacres, the Universal film also was criticized by Fox News and Fox Business, which called the premise "sick" and "twisted."

Even President Donald Trump tweeted about the film.

"Liberal Hollywood is Racist at the highest level, and with great Anger and Hate!" he wrote. "They like to call themselves 'Elite,' but they are not Elite. In fact, it is often the people that they so strongly oppose that are actually the Elite. The movie coming out is made in order to inflame and cause chaos. They create their own violence, and then try to blame others. They are the true Racists, and are very bad for our Country!"

Speaking with The Hollywood Reporter, Jason Blum from Blumhouse said there was no pushback from Universal about the graphic violence and political themes.

"It was read as a satire, no different from 'The Joker' or other movies that are violent," he said. "It was read as a movie that didn't take sides. ... The audience is smart enough to know that what they're seeing is a satire and it's preposterous."

In fact, Universal has leaned into the controversy.

"The Hunt" is a "timely and provocative new satirical thriller that has already ignited a national conversation," Universal said in a statement. "Now, it's time to decide for yourself."

And the strategy could pay off for Universal.

"Universal is taking lemons and turning them into box office lemonade as 'The Hunt,' a movie that was so controversial the mere viewing of its trailer got it pulled off the release calendar, is now back and set to hit theaters in mid-March," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst at Comscore. "It's a smart strategy to now play up the controversy and build buzz toward a theatrical release about a month from now and let audiences, who will finally be able to actually see the film, decide if 'The Hunt' is indeed too hot to handle."

Disclosure: Comcast is the parent company of CNBC and NBCUniversal.

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