The Combination is the self-financed debut film of veteran actor David Field and is imbued with racial tension and violence. The two central characters in the drama are Lebanese Australian brothers, one of whom is played by scriptwriter George Basha. Most of the cast are non-actors.
Two incidents occurred at Greater Union cinemas but there is confusion about exactly what happened: Greater Union says a security guard was hospitalised and a staff member injured as a result of a brawl but other reports indicate they were minor skirmishes.
The exhibitor subsequently pulled The Combination from four screens in Sydney's western suburbs, which is where the film is set and was filmed. That was on Sunday and the film will be back on from Wednesday, albeit with extra security in place.
'Our staff and patrons were placed in an environment they were not comfortable with from a personal safety perspective, and this is not acceptable,' said the general manager of operations at Greater Union, Robert Flynn, 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. I can assure you this decision was not made lightly.'
The Combination is the second film to be distributed by the Australian Film Syndicate (AFS), sister company to the Dungog Film Festival, which is devoted to increasing audiences for Australian films.
Allanah Zitersman from AFS said Greater Union had been 'extremely supportive' throughout the negotiations that have occurred since the incidents. They kept the film on screens in other parts of Australia.
She said she had to work hard to get the film on 33 screens: 'I don't blame them (exhibitors). Australian films have not been doing well and we are a new distributor. Our target audience was 18 to 24 years olds so we were also trying to get into multiplexes. It took a lot to convince them.'
The film opened on Thursday February 26 and grossed $118,000 (A$188,000) in its first weekend. The screen average is $3,700 (A$5,900), the fourth highest for the four days.
The Combination was produced by John Perrie and does not have a sales agent.