BANGKOK: Thai fans of “The Fast and the Furious” reacted with anger Friday after a court banned the latest instalment of the blockbuster franchise following a contract dispute with a local actor.
“Fast and Furious 7″ had been due to open in cinemas on April 1.
But it was blocked by a court injunction late Thursday after a movie studio filed a lawsuit saying local film star Tony Jaa was in breach of contract for appearing in the film.
Suwat Apaipakdi, a lawyer for Sahamongkol Film International, said the company had filed their suit because Jaa was committed to them in an exclusive contract until 2023.
“The court has ordered a ban on showing the movie until there is a further ruling”, he told AFP.
He added that Sahamongkul Film International is seeking 1.6 billion baht ($49 million) damages from Jaa, film studio Universal Pictures and local distributor United International Pictures (UIP).
By Friday afternoon more than 20,000 people had joined a Facebook page calling for the court to lift the ban and bemoaning that legal wrangling had stopped fans from seeing the film.
“Don’t let a dispute between two people stop others across the country missing their beloved movie,” wrote the page creator under the title “Thais need to watch Fast and Furious 7″.
“I have been waiting for a long time. How could you do this?” wrote another Facebook user Nam Anone Diiz.
A local branch of UIP did not respond to AFP requests for comment while Jaa and Universal Pictures were both unavailable.
Jaa came from a poor background in Thailand’s impoverished northeast to become one of the country’s best known “Muay Thai” martial artists.
He plays a villain in the latest Fast and Furious title and has a scene fighting longterm franchise star Paul Walker.
Walker was himself killed in November 2013, having completed much of his part in filming the seventh instalment, when a car he was riding in with another man crashed and burst into flames.
The first “Fast and Furious” movie appeared in 2001. The series, with its focus on fast cars, tough guys, sexy starlets and exotic locales, is one of Hollywood’s most successful global franchises.