Theater fears violence, drops "Stomp the Yard"

(AP) The CEO of a theater chain said he won't show a film about black college fraternities at any of his Springfield theaters this week out of fear it could trigger the kind of gang violence that erupted during another movie last month.

The decision drew criticism from the president of the Springfield branch of the NAACP, who said it hurts black audiences, particularly black families that would be attracted to what he says is an uplifting film.

The movie, "Stomp the Yard," is about a dance competition between black college fraternities.

Tony Kerasotes of Kerasotes Theatres, a Midwest chain, said he did not make his decision based on race but out of concern that the film would attract gang members.

He said he feared a repeat of a fight and shooting that occurred during a Christmas Day screening of "Black Christmas" at Parkway Pointe theater in Springfield. "Black Christmas" is a horror film and did not depict the black community.

Police said two groups of youths began fighting inside the theater and at least two fired shots in the theater's lobby. One teen was shot during the melee that police say stemmed from a long-standing feud between two gangs. One man has been arrested, but authorities say they don't believe he shot the injured teen and the investigation was continuing.

"I was fearful ("Stomp the Yard") could become the occasion for more gang violence, because I felt certain it would draw that audience," Kerasotes said. He added that he made the decision, in part, because "virtually all" of the people involved with the shooting are still at large.

"We don't think this is going to attract young black males who are part of a gang," said Ken Page, head of Springfield's NAACP. "It would be good if it did, this is a positive movie, the message is you can go to school."

Page said not showing the film is the wrong thing to do.

"Kerasotes should have sat down with the mayor or the police chief and said `We want you to make it safe to show all movies.' They're paid to do that."

"Stomp the Yard" will be shown in more than 2,000 locations nationwide starting Friday, including more than 40 other Kerasotes-owned locations.

Kerasotes said he would consider showing the movie in Springfield at a later date, perhaps on Jan. 19.

"Usually after a week or two, the edge and interest is off quite a bit on these kinds of films, and they just don't seem to draw as rough a crowd (as) on the first weekend," he said.