Talkback: Should Warner Bros. Cancel The Dark Knight Rises Screenings?

It's hard to imagine most folks will be eager to rush into cinemas this weekend following the tragedy out of Aurora, Colorado, even those who've been anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises for months. While Matt Patches over at thoughtfully wonders if audiences will return swiftly to theaters, The Wrap reports that Warner Bros. are themselves scrambling to figure out how to balance their multi-million dollar Dark Knight Rises roll-out campaign with common decency and empathy for the victims, their families, and a shaken nation.

It's not that audiences might recoil from Batman, presuming some direct link between the comics or the character somehow incited suspect James Holmes to allegedly pre-meditate his attack on the dozens of men, women, and children at Aurora's Century 16, despite unconfirmed reports that he may have had hair dyed in the style of The Joker; violence in media doesn't "make" people kill, though access to guns and combat paraphernalia helps sick people do terrible things.

And though fanboy ire this week had reached alarming levels with the hate-speech and death threats lobbied at critics of The Dark Knight Rises, any true Bat-fan knows that the DC hero not only fights to protect lives, he's staunchly anti-gun. (A scene in TDKR highlights this.) So let's not even start to blame the movies for what happened in Aurora. Besides: When tragedy strikes niche communities, it reminds us that we're not so divided after all.

Fandom is what made the Aurora victims sitting ducks for the gun man, who burst through the packed theater's emergency exit doors just minutes after the film had begun. These were people who had anticipated TDKR so much many of them likely bought tickets in advance, wanting to be among the first to see the film. The shooter seemed to be preying on fans, not representing them, though his motives have yet to be revealed. Writing in The New Yorker, Anthony Lane proposes doing away with midnight movies for fear of copycats, though his secondary reason somewhat condescendingly critiques the practice of the midnight screening altogether:

"...those screenings, starting when most people are in bed, often have a crazed and hallucinated air, which is all part of the game to those who enjoy them — anyone who has driven to a theatre to fetch teen-aged Harry Potter devotees, as they wander out in costume at three o’clock in the morning, can attest to that weary delirium — but which, right now, seems volatile, ominous, and redundant.

Theaters around the country will be beefing up security this weekend, with police in NYC and elsewhere promising increased presences at TDKR screenings. But whether or not more officers and metal detectors and other security measures are enacted going forward, the fact remains that this was a lone gunman who entered through an emergency door and shot dozens of people in cold blood. How much can security help, except to encourage moviegoers to head to the multiplex, to not live in fear of tragedy striking again?

Variety's Josh Dickey reports (via Twitter) that WB is not considering pulling screenings, and given the financial investment and massive 4,400-theater release plans it's hard to imagine they would. Cancelling a celebratory press event in Paris is one thing; letting audiences decide if they're ready to head into theaters, with the unshakable specter of Aurora lingering in the hearts and minds of just about everyone, is another.

Just a starting point for discussion, but sound off below as we keep the families and victims of Aurora in our thoughts.

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  • Andrew says:

    It's stupid to even consider cancelling the screenings.

    They didn't cancel screenings of New Jack City back in the 90's and that was multiple violent outbreaks at multiple screenings.

    If they were to cancel the screenings it would send a message that people aren't safe and it feeds into this culture of fear and paranoia that we've been creating since 9/11. That anything can happen at any time.

    It can. Anything can happen at any time. Safety is an illusion. As Alan Moore wrote in Watchmen, "Whoever we are, wherever we reside, we exist on the whim of murderers." On days like today I think of that, and it brings me a strange sense of comfort. Because MOST days are not like today.

    • Martin says:

      That's a good point.
      WB shouldn't cancel screenings just like that. People waited four long years for this, and pulling the plug on something like showings of 'The Dark Knight Rises' because one moviegoer went on a shooting spree is not only exaggerated but sort of moronic.

  • boycott warner bros if they put profits first and not postpone openings

  • I love going to see movies, I love being in a dark movie theater, and I'm not going to let some psychotic violent asshole change that. Can't wait to see "The Dark Knight Rises" tomorrow.

  • "It's hard to imagine most folks will be eager to rush into cinemas this weekend following the tragedy out of Aurora, Colorado, even those who've been anticipating the release of The Dark Knight Rises for months." - Really? How do you figure? The shooting had NOTHING to do with the movie! If the same thing had happened during a screening of Moonrise Kingdom, would anyone stop screenings? No. He was a LONE gunman, what's so hard to understand about that?

    • Jen Yamato says:

      You can't possibly go to a theater or to see TDKR this weekend and not think about what happened... or maybe that's just me. As much as I'd like to see TDKR again, it's still an unsettling thought - not because I think it's going to happen again, but because it's still so distressing.

      • It's not just you, Jen.

        There'll be a LOT of speeches, finger-pointing, and investigations....and theaters will become
        like the airports, with xrays and scanners. It's date-night, America-- empty your pockets
        and take off your shoes.
        Oh, ticket prices will go up to compensate for the costs. More reasons to avoid the theaters
        and remain at home. And Terror wins again.

        Stay safe, Jen. Stay swell, and be aware.
        KRIS, of KAG

      • I'm sorry, but that's absurd. I don't see anyone pausing before they go out to a mall after a nut shoots up the Apple store. Did the guy shoot up the mall because the Apple store put out a new phone he didn't like? Should we ban sales of said phone because it might inspire more shootings? Do kids think twice about going to school after the dozens of school shootings that have occurred? No. It's just fear-mongering, which is what the media does better than anyone. I can't tell you how many "news" channels said things like "people are terrified to go to movies after today's MASSACRE!" No, you've made them terrified by scaring them out of their minds with your endless reports. In fact, the box office data released Friday night confirms this. The Dark Knight Rises had an $80 million friday. The shooting did NOTHING to discourage people from going to the movies. But you wouldn't know that if you watched NBC, CBS, CNN and the host of other faux news channels.

        • John says:

          What I believe the Klingon guy is getting at is that there'll be a legislative push to
          increase security at public functions--- absurd or not, it stands a good chance of
          happening. We surrender our freedoms to be "safe" and "secure." Oh, people
          will still go to movies; at least I hope so!

        • Jen Yamato says:

          AS - not trying to fear-monger, and again, not saying I'm scared to go to the movies any more than before. But in the immediate wake of Aurora, my enthusiasm for running out to the theater to see TDKR was considerably diminished; it just didn't feel right to me, for me. That hesitancy is slowly fading and clearly neither grief nor fear kept many folks home this weekend, which is great. I agree with many commenters here that fear should not dictate our lives, and increased security at cinemas most likely wouldn't stop something like this from happening again.

          The point of this talkback was also to discuss WB's reaction to the situation. Of course the studio and filmmakers are not to blame for a madman's unconscionable attack on innocent victims, but WB was in the tough position of having to potentially respond as a business to a national tragedy - or not, as things turned out. Luckily for WB, many folks went to the movies anyway. Maybe those people hesitated then went in the spirit of not letting the shooter "win." Maybe they never gave it a second thought. Some out there might have liked to see the studio make some concession out of respect. But releasing the Man of Steel trailers the next day (as planned) seemed to do the trick of changing the conversation, if only a bit.

          • My issue is that WB shouldn't have been put in a position where they felt they had to respond in some way. That was the work of the media. The shooting had nothing to do with the film. It could have happened just as easily during The Avengers, Harry Potter etc. So WB re-editing the trailers to cut out all shots of guns is absurd because it implies that the film is responsible, in some way, for the shooting. Which is bogus. But fine, trailers are one thing, and you could make a case that it is just out of respect for the victims. But the fact that a studio is considering completely editing out a sequence in Ganger Squad or even re-shooting it is ridiculous, and, quite frankly, dangerous. When you start tampering with art out of response to media spin, it is the artist that suffers. And then who knows where the censorship will end. It's a slippery slope.

    • tracemurray says:

      The same thing would never have happened in a screening of Moonrise Kingdom, because comic-book movies (Nolan's Batman series in particular) attract and pander to psychos.

  • esskay says:

    The film will not be postponed. There may be some extra security in place. But mostly for appearance. There may be another gunman hoping to become famous...but they will wait for their own time and their own recognition. Most sociopaths don't want to share the spotlight.

  • You can't let fear control your life. What happened this morning was absolutely horrible. Beyond horrible. But think about it for a second. What are the odds this will happen again?

    People die all the time flying and driving on the freeway. Should we outlaw planes and cars?

    Relax people! You're perfectly safe in the theater. Go enjoy the movie and don't worry about becoming the next victim. Giving in to fear is much worse.

  • Jake says:

    I have to agree with Jen on this. I have now postponed my plans of going to see TDKR, but it has nothing to do with fear. I will see it, but I'm just too sad right now and no matter what, it's going to taint my feelings about it.

    I went to a comedy tonight (Ted) instead of TDKR and even then I couldn't shake it when, at the AMC theater I was at, they had a message before the movie to walk in an orderly fashion out of the theater if any emergency happened. It's a normal message they play before all movies, but it was kind of quiet and tense when it came up.

    I don't think anyone in that theater in Aurora was walking orderly to the exit. It's as big a tragedy as Columbine. Maybe even bigger since there were children and even babies there. So tragic at a relatively new American tradition, the midnight sneak. And you also can't deny that, even though the movie certainly didn't cause this, TDKR is about a sadistic madman who kills innocent people on bridges, in stadiums and in other public areas. So the film itself has an unintended connection. Furthermore, the killer apparently died his hair red and claimed to be the Joker. And that is going to be hard to push out of your mind while watching.

    One thing for sure is that Warner Bros. is absolutely freaking out about this right now.

    And New Jack City is hardly a comparison. Those shootings were from arguments that turned violent. This is a crazy person shooting random people including children. Totally different. That's why there was no outcry to stop those screenings.

    This is going to be a significant moment in our history. Unfortunately.

  • AlfredJPennyworth says:

    Isn't the Batman series all about not letting fear control your life and fighting back against those that would do evil?

    Also, great series of hysterical articles. I'm sure you got a lot of pageviews and clickthroughs out of your opportunistic hyperbole.

  • Baco Noir says:

    I too am with Jen on this. Although I had no intention of seeing it this weekend, let's pretend I did. Out of respect for those who died or were wounded, I could not go this weekend. I'm not being frightened away, I'm just postponing as a sign of respect for those who suffered because of a nutjob at the screening of this movie.

  • Mark Sobczak says:

    Why postpone the screenings? The movie had nothing to do with the killings, his delusional mind did. God forbid another shooting happens at a mall, school, or park. Would you close every school, mall, park in the nation?

  • Trace Murray says:

    Absolutely 100% yes. This series has time and again pandered to and charismatized psychosis, and this is the end result. The State of Colorado should be made to suffer the consequences and be reminded that absurd fetishism of morbid pop culture objects will not, and should not, be tolerated.

  • Realist says:

    Cancel it? You pussies who think that one isolated incident should change the entire industry are dillusional. I'm not scared of anything. I live in a state that allows conceal and carry and if some asshole thinks he's going to ruin my day, you stepped up to the wrong guy.

    Movies are perfectly safe and this knee jerk reaction is the result of the dumbing down of America. This could have happened anywhere, so shut it.

    Do we need metal detectors at every door in every public place? Libraries, malls, churches, schools, please, grow a pair and realize this society has gotten more violent, it sucks but it's a fact. If you let fear control you then you are the one who is lost. Fear mongering is the bread and butter of all media, right or left. Just because they scream it a thousand tiimes doesn't make it true, don't believe it. Live your life and get on with it.

    There will always be psychos and there will always be random incidents. If you feel you can never leave the house then which one of those sides of the line do you fall on?

    Empower yourself and live life!

    • Trace Murray says:

      The dumbing down of America is what led to this massacre in the first place, and while it COULD have happened anywhere, it happened in Colorado, home of the Columbine massacre. It's very likely not a coincidence.

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