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London's Prince Charles cinema axes screening of AI-generated film following public backlash

London cinema axes screening of AI-generated film following public backlash
London cinema axes screening of AI-generated film following public backlash Copyright AP Photo/Bernat Armangue - Canva
Copyright AP Photo/Bernat Armangue - Canva
By David Mouriquand
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The cinema’s decision to cancel the premiere of 'The Last Screenwriter' has been met with praise by fans, as the use of AI within the entertainment industry remains a thorny topic.

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London’s cult Prince Charles Cinema, known for its arthouse screenings, eccentric line-ups and midnight marathons, has long been a staple for cinephiles and genre fanatics.  

However, the beloved venue found itself at the centre of a backlash regarding the planned world premiere, on Sunday 23 June, of a film titled The Last Screenwriter.  

Too gory? Nope.

Too raunchy? Wrong again.

*Gasp* Not starring Vin Diesel, surely? No, everyone’s safe.

The backlash is regarding concerns that AI is replacing writers, as The Last Screenwriter is marketed as the “first feature film written entirely by AI”. 

In a statement shared to Instagram, the cinema said: “To all of you, yesterday we posted about a private hire event taking place this coming weekend which featured a project whose script had been written by AI. The client informed the private hire team that this was an ‘experiment in filmmaking’ by a filmmaker hoping to engage in the discussion about AI and its negative impact on the arts. The film’s content reflected this, so the hire team took the booking.” 

It continued: “The feedback we received over the last 24hrs once we advertised the film has highlighted the strong concern held by many of our audience on the use of AI in place of a writer which speaks to a wider issue within the industry. As a result of this, we have decided NOT to go ahead with the hire.” 

“Our decision is rooted in our passion for movies and listening to those who support what we do.” 

Created by Peter Luisi, the ChatGPT-written film centres on a screenwriter called Jack who encounters a cutting-edge AI scriptwriting system. When Jack experiments with the software, he begins to realise it matches his own writing skill and even surpasses his ability to empathise with others. 

The cinema’s decision to cancel the screening has been met with praise by fans.  

“That's why I love you guys so much,” wrote one fan. “I don't think any other cinema would have listened to its clientele so well.” 

“Thank you for taking a stand! You guys are awesome,” wrote another, while one user on X commented: “Whilst I do think that discussions of AI in film production are possible, the industry has proven to be far too quick to use it at the expense of paying artists for their work, and platforming a film like that can lend it a legitimacy that could prove problematic.” 

Some users, however, pointed out that an opportunity was missed.  

“Wasn’t the point of this film to criticise AI’s use by the movie industry? Hence the title “The Last Screenwriter”? Personally don’t think it should have been pulled, sounds like it would have been quite thought-provoking and opened up dialogue many of AI’s critics want to have.” 

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Another wrote: “You've completely missed the point and instead buckled under the slightest scrutiny. Shame!” 

The use of AI within the entertainment industry is a thorny topic, with countless actors supporting the strike by the US actors’ union SAG-AFTRA last year, a strike which featured the use of AI as a central point of contention. Programmes like ChatGPT rely heavily on copyrighted material for their development, and creatives are fighting for their professions to be not only recognized but protected.  

So, the right move by The Prince Charles, or a missed opportunity to further the discussion?  

The majority of the London public seem to side with the former.

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