The R-rated thriller stars Morgan Freeman as Alex Cross, a forensic detective and crime author drawn into investigating serial killings after his niece is abducted from a North Carolina college. It's based on a bestseller by James Patterson, who devised this story when he saw photos of four missing young women on a bulletin board in the usually idyllic town of Chapel Hill--home to the University of North Carolina.
Trailers for the film drew complaints from residents of Spotsylvania County, where 16-year-old Sofia Silva disappeared from the front steps of her home last September and 15-year-old Kristin Lisk and her 12-year-old sister, Kati, vanished from their house in May. The girls' bodies were found dumped in creeks within 40 miles of their home towns. Investigators believe a serial killer is responsible.
Since then, parents in the area have become intensely protective of their children, fearing a stalking murderer. After an unidentified woman phoned in a complaint, sneak previews in two theaters scheduled for last Saturday were canceled. John Epperly, district manager for RC Theaters, contacted both the theater-chain headquarters and Paramount to get the thriller pulled from four first-run cinemas in the area.
Leslie Sorkhe, who coordinates crime prevention in the Spotsylvania area, told the Washington Post the movie "would have kept the fear factor churning."
"The community came to us, and we felt that it would have been inappropriate to run the film, so we decided to withdraw it and not rub their noses in it," said Scott Cohen, president of film for RC Theaters, a 29-theater chain based in Reisterstown, Maryland.
Paramount spokesman Blaise Noto said his company had no problem with RC's decision to pull the film, which will continue to be shown throughout the country, including other RC Theaters in Maryland, Pennsylvania, North Carolina and Florida.