Two days before cinemas were supposed to premiere “The King of Staten Island,” a new comedic drama from Judd Apatow and Pete Davidson, movie theaters around the country were abruptly informed they were not able to show the film.

The semi-autobiographical look at Davidson’s upbringing in the titular New York City borough was originally intended to debut in a limited number of theaters — mostly drive-ins — that were able to remain open during the coronavirus pandemic, while also launching simultaneously across premium video-on-demand platforms.

The news has created consternation, and even outrage, in the close-knit community of drive-in operators, many of whom have been promoting showtimes and selling tickets for “The King of Staten Island.”

Now, they’ve had to offer refunds and scramble to find new content to show under short notice. Universal didn’t give exhibitors any reasoning behind the hasty decision.

“There was no explanation. They changed their mind,” lamented one independent theater owner under the condition of anonymity.

Adds another cinema operator, “This caused a considerable amount of ill will with customers who bought tickets online showing up for the Thursday 7 p.m. show.”

Insiders at Universal chalked it up to an internal misunderstanding, saying “The King of Staten Island” was always intended to premiere exclusively on-demand, however some executives unintentionally booked the film in about 100 theaters. When they realized the mistake, the studio went back to theaters and asked them not to play it.

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