"By Friday afternoon, publicity for the movie ['The Dark Knight Rises'] had stopped, a Paris première had been canceled, and a trailer for a future Warner release, 'Gangster Squad,' which depicts four men shooting up a movie theater, had been pulled from theaters," the New York Times reported Friday. -- "Barry M. Meyer, the chief executive of Warner Brothers . . . in a letter to Warner employees on Friday, 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," Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes said. -- "Warner was expected to refrain this weekend from the usual reporting of box office numbers." ...
Media decoder: Behind the scenes, between the lines
HOLLYWOOD STRUGGLES FOR PROPER RESPONSE TO SHOOTING
By Michael Cieply and Brooks Barnes
** The publicity machine for 'The Dark Knight Rises' is switched off **
New York Times
July 21, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Hollywood specializes 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 Friday struggling with the deadly shooting in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' a brooding, apocalyptic film that has been at the center of a studio strategy built around superheroes, fantasies, and brushes with violence.
By Friday afternoon, publicity for the movie had stopped, a Paris première had been canceled, and a trailer for a future Warner release, 'Gangster Squad,' which depicts four men shooting up a movie theater, had been pulled from theaters. 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 Friday, 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.
Mr. Meyer, in a letter to Warner employees on Friday, 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 theater 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 Mr. 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 theater, 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 on Friday morning.
The third-largest theater chain in the United States, Cinemark operate about 300 theaters with nearly 4,000 screens. Its much larger competitor, Regal Entertainment Group, said in a statement that it would “monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary.”
AMC Entertainment, North America’s second-largest theater chain, also expressed sadness about incident in a statement and said it was “actively working with local law enforcement in communities throughout the nation, and under the circumstances we are reaching out to all of our theaters to review our safety and security procedures.’’
In New York City, Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said his department would provide coverage at theaters where “The Dark Knight Rises” is playing in the five boroughs.
Carmike Cinemas, another major chain, also in a statement, noted that it uses both uniformed security and plainclothes officers and hidden security procedures “not in the sight of our guests.”
But one theater executive, speaking on condition of anonymity to avoid possible conflict with fellow executives in a rapidly changing situation, said it was nearly impossible to devise a broad response to the killings without knowing more about the incident. That executive said his chain, one of the country’s largest, so far had not changed its plans for “The Dark Knight.”
Cinemark shares were down 91 cents to $23.36 in Nasdaq trading at midday. Regal and Carmike Cinemas saw similar declines, as investors drew back only slightly on the incident.
“The Dark Knight Rises” took in $30.6 million in 12:01 a.m. shows on Friday, the second-highest midnight screenings total on record. Warner said that total came from 3,825 locations in North America, 330 of which were Imax theaters. (“Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2” set the record last summer, with $43.5 million in midnight ticket sales, according to Paul Dergarabedian, a box office analyst for Hollywood.com).
As Warner executives determined what further steps they might take in response, it remained unclear whether the incident would ultimately change the public’s reception of a film that has been one of the year’s most anticipated.
Given the outsized performance of similar hero-fantasies around the world, it appeared virtually a foregone conclusion that the movie would make money, even if it gets caught up in the kind of debate that surrounded “The Matrix.”
That film, released by Warner in late March 1999, was associated by some with the Columbine school killings a few weeks later. But it went on to become an enormous hit, and spawned two similarly successful sequels.
With its vision of revolt and chaos in a disintegrating Gotham City, “The Dark Knight” has already inspired a sense of awe among some reviewers, who found in its nearly three hours a worthy conclusion to a three-film Batman cycle. Vigilantism and its moral quandaries are a theme of the film, which is rated PG-13 but trades heavily on violence.
Already, some fans had caused trouble in the film world by adding a sense of threat to their passion for the anticipated movie. The Rottentomatoes.com Web site, which compiles film criticism, disabled its reader comments on “The Dark Knight” reviews earlier this week, after a handful of negative reviews drew death threats.
Crowds were still lining up around the country on Friday to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” which had been expected to take in about $190 million in domestic ticket sales by Monday morning. The film appears to remain on track for a strong weekend, even as the promotional campaign has been pulled back, partly because of strong advance ticket sales.
In Paris, workers removed a giant Batman mask that had been mounted on the front of a cinema along the Avenue des Champs-Elysées, where the screening was set to take place. Warner Brothers also canceled other promotional activities, including an interview with Marion Cotillard, the French actress who stars in the film, on the evening news bulletin of TF1, the most-watched television channel in France.
The Paris screening was one of four such premières set for international markets. One of them took place on Wednesday in London, the same day as the world première in New York. The others are set for next week in Tokyo and Mexico City. Warner Bros. did not say immediately whether those would go ahead.
Historically, there have been remarkably few major incidents of movie-theater violence, given the vast number of attendees -- about 1.3 billion tickets were sold in the United States last year. In 2010, one viewer stabbed another in the neck with a meat thermometer at a showing of “Shutter Island,” in Lancaster, Calif., and a man shot himself to death a screening of “Watchmen” in Eugene, Ore., the year before.
But incidents have usually been isolated, contained, and showed little or no relationship to what was showing on-screen.
[Added in online version:] Following the 9-11 terror attacks, exhibitors briefly flirted with the idea of banning backpacks in theaters. But the notion was largely dropped as unworkable, especially in New York City, where the many thousands of fans who do not drive cars often show up at the movies with a bulging bag.
A spokesman for 20th Century Fox said executives there were still assessing the incident. Earlier this year, Fox executives abruptly retitled a comedy, “The Watch,” out of fear that its previous title, “Neighborhood Watch,” would conjure associations with the Trayvon Martin killing. Speaking privately to avoid conflict with fellow executives, one Fox official said he now expected heightened security at theaters when “The Watch” opens next Friday.
--Eric Pfanner contributed reporting from Paris, and Stuart Elliott from New York.
|< Prev||Next >|