Sniper attacks delay release of thriller ‘Phone Booth’

? With a deadly sniper terrorizing the suburbs of the nation’s capital, 20th Century Fox has decided to delay the release of a thriller about people being pinned down in a phone booth by a gunman they can’t see.

“Phone Booth,” starring Kiefer Sutherland as the shooter, was to open Nov. 15.

But the studio postponed its release after a sniper killed nine people in suburban Washington, D.C., said Flo Grace, a 20th Century Fox spokeswoman. A new opening date has not been set.

Screenwriter Larry Cohen, who wrote “Phone Booth” three years ago, has said he wouldn’t mind if the studio held back the film, in which the shooter lures victims inside a phone booth, then threatens to kill them if they hang up.

Another movie with a similar theme, “Interview with the Assassin,” will open as scheduled Nov. 15 in New York and Los Angeles, said Eamonn Bowles, president of Magnolia Pictures, which is distributing the film.

The movie, about an ex-Marine who claims he shot President Kennedy, opens in more cities Nov. 22 the 39th anniversary of the assassination.

“We’re monitoring the situation, but right now we plan to go ahead with the release,” Bowles said Wednesday. “Basically we’re playing it by ear, seeing what the mood of the country is like.”

“Phone Booth” was a relatively low-cost film for Fox, with a budget of about $12 million. Colin Farrell, who co-starred as an investigator in this summer’s “Minority Report,” stars in “Phone Booth” as a man targeted for attack by a shooter who wants to punish strangers for their misdeeds.

This is director Joel Schumacher’s second consecutive film to be delayed because of troubling similarity to news events.

His Anthony Hopkins-Chris Rock comedy “Bad Company,” about U.S. agents trying to disarm terrorists in Manhattan, was supposed to debut last December. After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “Bad Company” was put off until June, when the $70 million adventure collected only about $30 million at the domestic box office.

Schumacher’s agent directed calls for comment back to Fox.

Other movies delayed for months after the Sept. 11 included “Collateral Damage,” starring Arnold Schwarzenegger as a firefighter seeking revenge for a terrorist bombing, and the ensemble comedy “Big Trouble,” which involved smugglers with a nuclear warhead on a jetliner. Both films also performed poorly once they finally debuted.