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Tight Security At Vladivostok Screening of Russian Film Matilda

People buy tickets for a screening of Aleksei Uchitel's latest film Matilda at the Illyuzion cinema in Vladivostok on September 11.
People buy tickets for a screening of Aleksei Uchitel's latest film Matilda at the Illyuzion cinema in Vladivostok on September 11.

VLADIVOSTOK -- A controversial film about an affair Tsar Nicholas II had before his marriage was screened amid "unprecedented security measures" in the city of Vladivostok following threats and attacks targeting the film and its director.

Anton Alekseyenko, the director-general of the Illyuzion cinema network, told reporters before the screening of Matilda that local and federal security officers were providing security at the theater in the Pacific Coast city.

All attendees of the screening went through security checkpoints and security officers were present at each of the five theaters in the complex.

The 500 tickets to the Vladivostok screening sold out almost immediately on September 8 after high-profile protests against the film by Russian Orthodox Christian figures and hard-line nationalists.

The protesters have claimed the film besmirches the memory of Nicholas, who was canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church in 2000.

In a speech before the screening, director Aleksei Uchitel called on the audience to support his film.

"There are too many debates about the film with some people who I believe are not fully sane," Uchitel said. "The film does not offend anyone. Please support it even if you do not like it."

Meanwhile the Illyuzion cinema scheduled to present Matilda in Moscow on September 11 announced on its website that the screening has been postponed to October 25 due to "technical reasons."

Nationwide Release

Russia's Culture Ministry has approved the release of the film, and it is to open nationwide on October 26.

Earlier on September 11, masked men in Moscow set fire to two cars near the Moscow office of Uchitel’s lawyers and left leaflets saying "To burn for Matilda."

Cars Torched In Moscow, But Film Shown In Vladivostok
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Attorney Konstantin Dobrynin wrote on Facebook that the attack might have been encouraged by Russian lawmaker Natalya Poklonskaya, a vehement critic of the movie.

Moscow police said it launched investigations into the arson attack and threatening leaflets.

President Vladimir Putin's spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, called the attack "an act of extremism that must be investigated by law enforcement."

It was the third violent incident connected to the film in less than two weeks.

On August 31, unknown attackers threw Molotov cocktails into Uchitel's studio in St. Peterburg.

On September 4, a 39-year-old man known for previously protesting the film rammed his vehicle into a movie theater in Yekaterinburg and set the car ablaze in a fire that also burned the cinema’s entrance.

'Premeditated Insult'

A campaign to ban the film was led by Poklonskaya, a controversial Russian Duma deputy from Crimea who has expressed monarchist views.

She previously worked as the Russia-imposed prosecutor in Ukraine’s occupied region of Crimea after it was seized and annexed by Russia in March 2014.

Ramzan Kadyrov, the Kremlin-backed head of Russia's Chechnya region, argued that Matilda screenings should be banned in the mostly Muslim regions of the North Caucasus because it was a "premeditated insult to the feelings" of religious believers.

The film tells the story of a romance between Nicholas, when he was an unmarried crown prince, and ballet dancer Matilda Kshesinskaya.

WATCH: Trailer For Matilda

Trailers showing romantic scenes between the young prince and Kshesinskaya have outraged conservative critics.

The affair ended in 1894 when Nicholas married the German princess who became Empress Alexandra.

Kshesinskaya later married the tsar's cousin, Grand Duke Aleksandr Vladimirovich. She died in 1971.

Conservatives deny the well-documented affair took place. Some have claimed it would have been impossible for a prince to fall in love with a woman they say was "utterly homely.”

With reporting by TASS and Interfax
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