Universal Pulls 'The Hunt' Ads Amid Gun Violence Uproar

The Hunt Universal Featurette - H - 2019

After THR reported that ESPN had pulled a commercial, the studio took additional action on Wednesday.

Universal has decided to pause its marketing campaign for The Hunt — an R-rated satire in which elites hunt "deplorables" for sport — following a trio of mass shootings across the country. 

A day after The Hollywood Reporter reported that the studio was reevaluating its strategy for the film, and that ESPN had already pulled an ad, Universal took additional action. "Out of sensitivity to the attention on the country’s recent shooting tragedies, Universal Pictures and the filmmakers of The Hunt have temporarily paused its marketing campaign and are reviewing materials as we move forward," a spokesperson said. 

The movie's full trailer (4.6 million views on YouTube) as well as a featurette titled "Private Hunting Experience" (163,000 views) remain online for now. The violent, R-rated film from producer Jason Blum's Blumhouse follows a dozen individuals who wake up in a clearing and realize they are being stalked for sport by elite liberals.

Universal has faced a backlash on social media as well as networks pulling ads over The Hunt as public anger grows over gun violence. Over the weekend, THR earlier reported, ESPN pulled an ad for the film that it had previously cleared, while AMC ran the spot during the season premiere of its drama The Preacher.

It's unclear whether the ads were identical, but the one yanked by ESPN opened with a sound resembling an emergency broadcast signal. A rep for ESPN parent Disney declined to comment on the move, but an ESPN source had earlier told THR that no spots for the film will appear on the network in the coming weeks.

Directed by Craig Zobel, The Hunt is written by Damon Lindelof and Nick Cuse. The movie stars Betty Gilpin (GLOW) and Hilary Swank, representing opposite sides of the political divide. It features guns blazing along with other ultra-violent killings as the elites pick off their prey. The film is scheduled to hit theaters Sept. 27.