By Denis Pinchuk
MOSCOW (Reuters) - Russia's largest cinema chain said on Tuesday it would not show a film depicting an affair between a ballerina and the last Russian tsar, after receiving repeated threats from religious activists and nationalists who deem it blasphemous.
Executed by Bolsheviks in 1918, the last tsar is considered a martyr by the Russian Orthodox Church, whose influence in society has grown greatly since the fall of communism in 1991.
"Matilda", to be released internationally in late October, tells the tale of the late-19th century romance between Nicholas II, before he became tsar, and half-Polish dancer Matilda Kshesinskaya, who described the relationship in her memoirs.
The Cinema Park and Formula Kino chain did not elaborate on the threats it had received.
However, last month, someone tried to set fire to a complex in St Petersburg that houses director Alexei Uchitel's studio. There was minor damage to a part of the complex used by another organization.
Last week, a man drove a car packed with gas canisters into the entrance of a cinema from a different chain in Yekaterinburg, the city where Bolshevik revolutionaries executed Nicholas II and his family.
Roman Linin, general director of Cinema Park and Formula Kino, said in a statement he had been forced to take the decision for the safety of customers.
"The resonance around the picture caused by the latest events might have probably boosted its commercial potential, but the safety of our viewers remains a priority for us," he said.
"As the largest network of cinemas from the point of view of quantity and geography, we simply cannot expose our numerous visitors to danger."
Uchitel could not be immediately reached for comment.
The cinema chain, which has 75 cinemas with 624 halls in 28 Russian cities, has been acquired by investment holding A&NN.
The holding is controlled by billionaire Alexander Mamut, ranked 40th among Russia's richest businessmen with a fortune of $2.5 billion, according to the Forbes magazine.
(Reporting by Denis Pinchuk; Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; Editing by Alison Williams)