The Italian distributor of British TV movie "Death of a President" — which centers on the fictionalized assassination of George W. Bush — said Wednesday that almost one in three theaters due to show the controversial film has pulled out ahead of its weekend release.

The movie has sparked controversy amid accusations it might be seen as an instigation to attempt an assassination. The posters advertising the movie — depicting a fictional headstone of the U.S. president — have added to the unease in Italy.

"Many theaters have pulled out, saying they didn't want to have problems," said Andrea Occhipinti, the chief of the Lucky Red company, which distributes the movie in Italy.

The film comes out Friday here. Out of the 100 theaters originally schedule to show it, about 30 have pulled out, Occhipinti said.

Occhipinti decried what he called "pre-emptive censorship."

"The movie is thought-provoking and it's been summarily rejected before people even see it," he said.

The posters advertising the movie show a headstone including Bush's name, his date of birth and the fictional date of his death, Oct. 19, 2007. Newspapers articles have criticized the posters. Occhipinti said that in Rome alone about 600 of a total 2,000 were taken down, apparently in a sign of protest.

The movie by British director Gabriel Range is a fictional documentary chronicling the sniper shooting of Bush during a trip to Chicago and the ensuing investigation. It blends archival footage of Bush interspersed with fierce anti-war protests and other fictional scenes.

The filmmakers said they chose to use Bush rather than substitute a fictitious president to heighten authenticity.