Cineplex pulls South Indian film after series of drive-by shootings at movie theatres linked to turf war

Malaikottai Vaaliban, a South Indian film that premiered in January, has been pulled from several GTA theatres after gunshots were fired outside. Meanwhile, an independent Oakville cinema owner says he plans to keep showing it. Nick Westoll reports.

Cineplex is removing the 2024 South Indian film Malaikottai Vaaliban following a series of drive-by shootings at various GTA and Toronto theatres on the day it premiered.

On Tuesday, York Regional Police said officers were called to a movie theatre on Jan. 24 in the area of Hwy. 7 and East Beaver Creek in Richmond Hill after an employee arrived for work and found the windows had been shot at.

The same day, police responded to a similar call at a movie theatre in the area of Hwy. 7 and Weston Road in Vaughan.

Multiple suspects are connected to both shootings in York Region and similar shootings at movie theatres in Scarborough and Brampton on the same night. It’s believed the incidents were targeted, with police adding that no injuries were reported and the cinemas were closed at the time of the shootings.

The acts of violence are now being linked to a turf war with a group attempting to prevent various South Indian-language movies from being shown in favour of other films.

Michelle Saba, Vice President of Communications for Cineplex, confirmed in an email to CityNews 680 that “due to circumstances beyond our control,” the theatres will no longer present the film Malaikottai Vaaliban.

“With reference to the incidents at our theatres, we are working closely with local authorities, who are leading this investigation, and can’t share more details at this time,” Saba said.

Malaikottai Vaaliban is a 2024 epic action drama film. Photo: IMBD.

Jeff Knoll, owner of Film.Ca Cinemas in Oakville, tells CityNews 680 that he has no plans to stop screening the movie.

“There’s an audience that wants to see this film,” Knoll said. “We’re not going to get bullied into pulling films. We’re going to play what we want to play.”

Knoll says he doesn’t anticipate any issues as he has a significant security presence at his Oakville cinema. Film distributors, meanwhile, believe the recent drive-by shootings are business-related and that there are many competing interests in South Asian film distribution, which is highly lucrative.

“We have already had the stuffing kicked out of us since the pandemic. The cinema industry has not recovered. My business and every cinema are suffering and hanging on by a thread. This is the last thing we needed.”

In addition to Film.Ca Cinemas, there are current showtimes for Malaikottai Vaaliban at TIFF Bell Lightbox.

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