Los Angeles, July 21: Hollywood specialises in making movies that are escapes from reality. Now a film has been linked to an act of real-life violence, leaving movie executives scrambling to respond.
Warner Brothers and its corporate allies spent yesterday struggling with the deadly shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises, a brooding, apocalyptic film that has been at the centre of a studio strategy built around superheroes, fantasies and brushes with violence.
By yesterday afternoon, publicity for the movie had stopped, a Paris premiere had been cancelled, and a trailer for a future Warner release, Gangster Squad, which depicts four men shooting a movie theatre, had been pulled from cinemas. Some broadcast networks and cable channels, including Fox Broadcasting and NBC, stopped running commercials for the film.
But a stunned Hollywood was also left looking for direction. Declining to speak publicly were Barry M. Meyer, the chief executive of Warner Brothers; Jeff Robinov, the president of Warner Brothers Pictures; and Thomas Tull, the chief executive of Legendary Entertainment, which helped to produce The Dark Knight Rises.
Early yesterday, Warner issued a two-sentence statement that said the studio and its filmmakers were “deeply saddened” by the shooting, in which 12 people were killed and dozens wounded, and extended “sincere sympathies” to the families of victims.
Meyer, in a letter to Warner employees yesterday, encouraged “thoughts and prayers” for the victims and advised his fellow workers to seek solace from friends and families, or help from the company’s human resources team. Warner was expected to refrain this weekend from the usual reporting of box office numbers.
Speaking for the film’s cast and crew, Christopher Nolan, the director, issued a statement in which he called the killings “appalling”.
He added: “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”
It was still unclear what impact the shooting would have on the studio’s marketing and promotional plans, now that its summer blockbuster has been linked to a tragedy that authorities say killed 12 people and wounded at least 59 more.
The movie, the final one in a trilogy of Batman movies directed by Nolan, has been publicly reported to have a budget of about $250 million, and worldwide marketing expenses could easily drive the total cost beyond $400 million.
Cinemark Holdings Inc., the Texas-based chain that owns Aurora’s Century 16 theatre, where the shooting occurred, said in a statement that it was “deeply saddened” by the incident and was “working closely with the Aurora police department and local law enforcement”. Cinemark officials did not immediately respond to queries yesterday morning.