Chain lifts Sydney gang film ban

'The Combination' inspired violence at area screenings

SYDNEY -- A major Australian cinema chain said Monday that it will resume Sydney screenings of a gritty movie about Lebanese-Australian gangs with increased security because of audiences' initial violent reactions.

Greater Union suspended screenings of the low-budget, Australian-made independent "The Combination" in its four Sydney cinemas Sunday after violence broke out at its suburban Parramatta theater on Thursday and Saturday nights.

Thirty young people attacked a security guard Thursday night, sending him to the hospital, police said. On Saturday, police were called when four people began fighting during a screening. No arrests were made.

The decision to suspend Sydney screenings outraged the makers and distributors of the critically acclaimed movie, which premiered Thursday and strikes a sensitive racial chord in this city of 4 million.

The drama is spliced with television news footage of an alcohol-fueled rampage at Sydney's Cronulla Beach in 2005 in which thousands of mostly ethnic European males randomly attacked anyone who appeared to be Middle Eastern.

Greater Union General Manager Robert Flynn said the screenings will resume Wednesday in all four cinemas with increased security provided by the distributor, Australian Film Syndicate.

"Our staff and patrons were placed in an environment they were not comfortable with from a personal safety perspective," Flynn said in a statement. "Until we were able to address these concerns properly and implement additional security measures, the decision was made to suspend sessions of this film."

Flynn did not detail the extra security measures. The distributor was not available for comment Monday.