Violence Mars Film Premiere -- 1 Killed, 33 Hurt As `Boyz N The Hood' Opens Nationally; Youth Stabbed Here

Some movie theaters across the country stopped showing "Boyz N the Hood" after its debut was marred by violence that left a Chicago moviegoer dead and at least 33 others wounded, including one in Tukwila.

John Singleton, the director of the semiautobiographical film, accused theaters that canceled screenings of practicing "artistic racism" and appealed for peace among moviegoers.

Columbia Pictures officials stood by the film, pledging to pay for increased security at theaters that continue to show the movie.

Violence erupting nationwide this weekend at premieres of "Boyz N the Hood," included the stabbing of a 15-year-old male amid a series of scuffles outside the Lewis & Clark Theater in Tukwila. It took police two hours to subdue the crowd late Friday, and 11 were arrested for assault or disorderly conduct.

The stabbed youth was reported in satisfactory condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. The theater canceled yesterday's showings.

Among theaters that continued to air the movie last night was Seattle's Broadway Market Cinemas, where a fight broke out. Police and private security guards quickly pulled the combatants apart.

A crowd, which included many families, had just filed in for the 9:40 p.m., sold-out showing at the Capitol Hill movie house, when some young men who apparently had not gotten into the movie began throwing punches.

To disperse a crowd of youths gathering around the cinema entrance, theater management closed the front grating.

On opening night in Chicago, a 23-year-old man was shot to death.

Ironically, the movie is sharply critical of street violence. Directed by Singleton, a 23-year-old African-American filmmaker who grew up in the Los Angeles neighborhood where the film is set, "Boyz N the Hood" concentrates on one black teenager who gradually disengages himself from the pattern of violence and retribution established by the gangs that run his neighborhood.

The movie ends with this message: Increase the peace.

At a press conference yesterday at Columbia Pictures' headquarters in Culver City, Calif., Singleton said, "My heart goes out to the families of the people that were hurt. I am very disappointed because that's not what my film is about. This movie is about family, love and friendship."

He said his film is not responsible for the violence "because I didn't create the conditions which make people shoot each other."

Singleton also accused journalists of playing up violence surrounding movies by black directors and producers while ignoring trouble spurred by other films.

"There are a lot of other films where things happen around the corner and nothing is reported," he said. "But when my film comes out, it's all reported. I call that artistic racism."

In Tukwila, Assistant Police Chief Bob McQueen said fighting broke out in the Lewis & Clark parking lot Friday between patrons who were waiting to purchase tickets to get into the movie.

Like many of the theaters showing "Boyz N the Hood," the Lewis & Clark had beefed up security for the film's opening.

McQueen said fights continued to break out for two hours until crowds were cleared.

The Seven Gables chain that runs Broadway Market Cinemas said two off-duty Seattle policeman were on hand to control crowds. Opening-night audiences were unruly but no rioting occurred, the chain said. Some refunds were given.

Seven Gables has hired security before only for Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing," but that happened one week after the film opened in June 1989 and followed an incident in which someone set off firecrackers in the theater. Cineplex Odeon, which operates the Lewis & Clark, ran into some milder disturbances when "New Jack City" opened there in March.

In an interview with The Seattle Times published last Sunday, director Singleton said "the influx of crack really started to happen in 1983-84, and I wanted to show how children grew up with that. I just believe that black men need to take better care of children. There's a whole population of young black men in search of their manhood, always in the process of trying to become men. They join gangs, or they get involved in sports, but there are not a lot of true men."

The movie begins with a shocking statistic: "One out of every 21 black males will be murdered, most of them at the hands of another black male."

The one idealized male adult in the film is the hero's father, who tries to keep the boy out of the cycle of violence. He also delivers a speech to the effect that "whites want us to kill ourselves."

Singleton feels "there's a large number of whites that could care less about blacks."

The film has been praised by critics, and it generated tremendous interest at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where Singleton was mobbed by fans.

The general manager of the nation's only black-owned first-run theater has expressed concern that the marketing campaign by Columbia Pictures has targeted youths in the rival Crips and Bloods street gangs.

"The early trailers placed a heavy emphasis on the gang elements of the film, even though that's only about 15 minutes of the whole movie," Nelson Bennett said last week. "It is a campaign that played to fear."

Bennett, of Los Angeles' Baldwin Hills Theater, which is showing the film, said it would be unfortunate if audiences missed "Boyz N the Hood."

"People are skittish and they are nervous. But this is an important coming-of-age film and a lot of people will be scared to see it because of the marketing campaign," he said.

With some exceptions, most reports from Friday night indicate that the movie itself is not inciting the fights and shootings, which usually take place before the screening begins.

The most serious incidents:

-- In Minneapolis, one shot was fired in the downtown Skyway Theater. As part of the crowd spilled out into the street, a vehicle drove by and multiple shots were fired. Four people suffered gunshot wounds. Another person broke a leg when she was hit by a car while running away; a sixth suffered what were described as minor injuries.

-- At Universal City near Hollywood, all future showings of the film were canceled when five people were shot in and near the 18-theater Cineplex Odeon complex. Pandemonium filled the darkened moviehouse as patrons fled.

"People were stampeding. People were running into the bathroom," said moviegoer Sally Dorsey. "I did, too."

-- In the Chicago suburb of Riverdale, a man was fatally shot early yesterday after a midnight showing at a drive-in.

-- In Upland, a Los Angeles suburb, four people were shot in what may have been a fight between two rival gangs. The theater cancelled future showings.

-- In Sacramento, a 19-year-old woman was shot six times in the chest and shoulder when two young men opened fire on deputies trying to break up fights outside the theater.

-- In Pinole, in Northern California, a 20-year-old man was in serious condition after being shot several times in the back.

-- Two people were wounded, one seriously, while standing in line to watch the movie in Chino, 35 miles east of Los Angeles.

Earlier this year, the opening of "New Jack City," about the crack epidemic, caused a riot in Los Angeles.