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New Movie Sparks Violence

Release of New Jack City Prompts Incidents in Several Cities


LOS ANGELES--Death and destruction accompanying the drug-gang movie New Jack City put the moviemaker on the defensive yesterday.

Shootings and rioting arrived with the Friday release of the Warner Bros. film, based on the life of Harlem drug lord Nickie Barnes. A man was killed in New York and disturbances erupted in Chicago, New Jersey, Nevada and Los Angeles.

Warner Bros. spokesperson Robert Friedman said nationwide only one theater pulled the movie.

"Ninety-nine percent of the American theaters had no problems whatsoever," he said. "Unfortunately, where youths get together there are often problems."

New Jack City placed second in the weekend box office tally with an impressive $7 million-plus in receipts on only 862 screens. But the film probably won't go into expanded release.

"Films like this have a limited market. It won't go any wider," said John Krier of Exhibitor Relations Co., which monitors motion picture performance.

The movie stars Wesley Snipes as a flashy and ruthless crack dealer. Rap artist Ice-T, Judd Nelson and director Mario Van Peebles play police officers out to destroy his drug empire. The drug dealer is eventually brought to justice, but is not punished. Instead, a citizen takes the law into his own hands.

Peebles insisted the film doesn't incite violence and in fact is an anti-gang movie.

But Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Sgt. William Reed disagreed: "It's the type of movie that will draw the gangs to it." Las Vegas officers arrested 15 people after a Friday fight in a theater showing the movie.

In New York, a teen-ager was arrested Saturday for investigation of murder in the Friday shooting death of Gabriel Williams, 19, in front of a theater showing the movie.

Authorities said more than 100 shots were fired, some from an automatic weapon, when Williams and Shawn Curry, 18, went outside to finish an argument that began inside the theater.

In Sayreville, N.J., three police officers and a civilian were hurt Friday night when a fight between two people in a theater lobby touched off other fights.

In Chicago, two groups exchanged gunfire late Saturday after a screening of the film at a downtown theater, said Detective T.V. Minton. A 42-year-old passerby was wounded in the leg.

On Chicago's South Side, a man was stabbed early Sunday outside a theater showing the movie in the Hyde Park neighborhood, Minton said.

In Los Angeles, about 1,500 people rioted when the Mann Westwood Theatre oversold tickets Friday night and turned people away. Stores in the Westwood Village district were looted during a 2-hour melee. Nine people were arrested.

William Hertz, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles-based, 110-theater Mann Theater chain, was in a meeting yesterday and couldn't be reached for comment, his secretary said.

But a telephone message at the Mann Westwood said all shows of New Jack City have been canceled.

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