Shootings and stabbings marked the premiere of the movie 'Juice' despite beefed-up security at theaters across the country, but authorities Saturday were reluctant to link the real-life violence to showings of the gritty urban drama.
'Juice,' which has received generally positive reviews, opened in 1,098 theaters nationwide and took in an estimated $2.4 million on opening night, a spokesman for Paramount Pictures said.
Studio officials had offered to pay for increased security for the film's premiere after problems last year on the opening night of two other films that focused on the inner city, Warner Brothers' 'New Jack City' and Columbia's 'Boyz N the Hood.'
Paramount's Harry Anderson described as 'isolated incidents' the violence reported around the country, adding, 'We're not sure it's related to the film.'
Overall, he said, 'we had a successful opening.'
In the Philadelphia suburb of Cheltenham, a teenager was shot in the neck and left paralyzed early Saturday during an altercation outside a theater after the final showing of the film.
Hours before, police arrested a man who pulled a .357 Magnum and tried to force his way onto a line outside a theater in downtown Philadelphia.
At a theater on Manhattan's Lower East Side Friday night, two 16- year-olds got into a dispute that landed one in the hospital with a minor stab wound and the other charged with assault, but police said they did not know if the incident was related to the film.
On Long Island, police arrested a man who brandished a semi-automatic pistol in the lobby of the Commack Multiplex Theatre in Commack early Saturday, sparking several altercations as panicked filmgoers fled to exits.
Police said the crowd was dispersed with no injuries, adding that the gunman had just been released from jail Friday.
Boston police planned to have 10 officers at a Beacon Hill theater Saturday night, including two plainclothes officer inside, after several shots rang out Friday night not long after the movie began. No one was hurt.
No suspects were arrested but investigators did find four slugs in the ceiling and two in a wall, as well as a .38-caliber gun with five spent rounds and one empty shell casing.
Witnesses said the gunfire was sparked by a police search for a mugger who robbed a patron in the theater's restroom, not by the movie itself.
In Eaton County, Mich., a suburb of Lansing, three gunmen fired at least nine shots into a mall theater after a fight that broke out in the lobby spilled into the parking lot.
Sheriff Art Kelsey said the only victim was a 17-year-old Lansing youth hospitalized in stable condition with gunshot wounds to the hip and leg. No arrests were made.
Kelsey added that one viewer told investigators that she knew of at least six people at the movie who were carrying guns.
Theater managers said the film would not be shown Saturday.
'I think it's a wise decision, but a wiser decision would have been not to show it at all,' Kelsey said. 'It's making money at people's expense.'
'Juice' portrays four friends in Harlem tempted by drugs and gangs who get involved in a robbery that ends in murder. The title is a street word for power, and the ads for the film ask 'How far will you go to get it?'
Los Angeles police, meanwhile, reported no violence at any of the local theater showing the movie.
Some critics have said the film's promotional campaign highlights the movie's violence, despite its strong anti-violence message. Paramount executives have defended the studio's distribution strategy.
When 'New Jack City' opened last February, a riot broke out in the Westwood area of Los Angeles after a theater oversold tickets. No screenings of 'Juice' were scheduled for Westwood on Friday.
In July, gunfire erupted in New York City and Long Island movie theaters premiering 'Boyz.'
Studio executives said those films did not cause violence and blamed the trouble on problems with crowd control.