Damaged cinemas, interruptions of screenings, police presence: several cinemas in Germany and other countries have seen incidents in recent days while showing the movie “Creed III”, the ninth film in the epic “Rocky” series.

On the social media platform TikTok, episodic videos are gaining attention. According to the Essen police, “challenges” are shared on the network. Youngsters urge each other to disrupt the movie screening with their actions and thus gain attention on TikTok. But experts still aren’t sure it’s a trend.

In Essen, Hamburg and Bremen, the police had to intervene because cinema workers could no longer bring the situation under control. “Spectators got up, climbed over the seats and started throwing snacks into the hall,” said a police spokesman in Essen. The 40 or so troublemakers continued the episodes, although the show had long since stopped. In Hamburg, the police are talking about 60 rioters. The police were unable to arrest anyone.

The phenomenon did not only affect the big cities: “Our cinema was like a battlefield full of garbage, scattered popcorn and spilled drinks. I’ve never experienced this before,” says Reinhard Behrens from a cinema in Kleve on the Lower Rhine. In some French cities, police also reported mass incidents during screenings of “Creed III – Rocky’s Legacy.”

Experts disagree about the phenomenon

Social media experts from the Essen police found evidence of a “provocation” on social networks. Several videos of the episodes have specifically appeared on TikTok. Other experts are still cautious. This is not a typical “challenge” since the topic lacks a hashtag, says Markus Boes, an expert at the Hamburg University of Applied Sciences. “Without them, a TikTok topic doesn’t spread.”

Robert de Lubomircz-Tretter from the public media body in North Rhine-Westphalia also believes that internet penetration is too low. However, TikTok’s mechanism could lead to a trend. In the comments on the clips from the movie theaters, there is an impressive number of racist comments that provoke reactions from other users. “This ensures engagement and therefore traffic and pushes the theme to even more users’ screens.” Because of this exposure, the issue could continue to escalate.

“A lot of users want to get as many views as possible, because then you’re considered somebody,” explains the media expert. In any case, there are some elements of the episodes that could favor an upcoming trend. “The destruction, the rebellion against adults, the testing of risks and limits – there is a lot that can attract teenagers.”

Controls at cinema entrances

Cinema owners are hoping things won’t go that far after all. As a first reaction, the cinema chain Cineplex has deployed security in front of the theaters and is conducting background checks on those entering. Knives and other smaller weapons had already been found, CEO Kim-Ludolf Koch told WDR.

Andreas Simon, who runs several cinemas in the Saarland, took the film “Creed III” out of the program as a precaution. There were incidents during several screenings, he and his team had to stop the film again and again, and the theaters afterwards looked like “pig houses,” he told Saarland radio.