Hollywood declares box office truce after massacre

Agence France-Presse
Warner Brothers decided not to publish weekend box office figures after the Aurora, Colorado massacre -- a move swiftly followed by rivals


LOS ANGELES, United States – The Hollywood studio behind the Batman movies decided not to publish weekend box office figures after the Colorado massacre — a move swiftly followed by rivals, wary of offending the public.

Warner Brothers also canceled red carpet events for the film in France, Japan and Mexico — and in a separate move scrambled to pull a trailer for another film, including a scene in which mobsters shoot at theater audiences.

Friday’s (July 20) massacre, in which a black-clad gunman dressed in full body armor gunned down dozens of filmgoers at a packed midnight premier of “The Dark Knight Rises,” produced a marketing nightmare for the film’s makers.

Within hours they had canceled the movie’s Paris premiere, which was to have been accompanied by a press junket with the cast and crew including director Christopher Nolan and main star Christian Bale.

After initial radio silence from most of the cast and crew, Nolan issued a statement lamenting the “senseless tragedy,” and expressing “our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community.”

On Saturday, July 21, Bale, who plays Bruce Wayne aka Batman, said: “Words cannot express the horror that I feel .. ..I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them.”

Warner Bros issued a statement early on saying it was “deeply saddened,” and then on Saturday a spokeswoman confirmed that the studio will not publish weekend takings — a form of crowing about box office success — until Monday, July 23.

This was despite the fact that unofficial figures cited by industry daily Variety suggest that it made $75 million on Friday alone, the third biggest opening day ever at the US box office.

The Hollywood Reporter reported Saturday that “The Dark Knight Rises,” the climax of the blockbuster trilogy, was set to make $165-170 million over the weekend.

If confirmed, that would make it the second or third highest debut weekend ever, after this year’s blockbuster “The Avengers” on $207.4 million, and level with “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, on $169.2 million last year.

But Warners said it will not publish the figures until Monday.

“Out of respect for the victims and their families, Warner Bros. Pictures will not be reporting box office numbers for ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ throughout the weekend,” said a spokeswoman.

The move was swiftly followed by major Hollywood rivals including Disney, Fox, Sony, Lionsgate and Universal.

Box office tracker Exhibitor Relations confirmed that Warner and “many other studios” were withholding their takings numbers until May, adding: “Whatever we get, we will send out.”

“I think it’s a nice gesture, but taking this from the fans is sort of like reporting on the Super Bowl and not giving the final score,” the industry data tracker’s Jeff Bock told AFP.

Warner Bros also announced that red carpet events planned in Mexico and Japan for the movie had been canceled, although screenings will go ahead as planned.

“Due to the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado, Warner Bros. Pictures has cancelled the previously scheduled personal appearances by the cast and filmmakers in Mexico and Japan on behalf of The Dark Knight Rises,” it said.

Separately, the studio was forced to scramble to cut a trailer for “Gangster Squad,” a 1940s mobster movie starring Sean Penn, Emma Stone and Josh Brolin, because of a shooting scene eerily similar to the Colorado massacre.

Worse, the trailer had featured in a trailer package running before “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Although it did not run before the movie at the Aurora theater where the massacre occurred shortly after midnight, it was still running elsewhere Friday evening, although had been mostly cut by Saturday, according to media reports.

It is also no longer viewable on websites including YouTube.

The Los Angeles Times reported Saturday that Warners is considering delaying its planned September release, or making changes to the movie to take into account sensibilities after the Colorado shooting.

But it said editing the gunman-shooting-at-theater-audience scene could be difficult: it will be difficult to cut altogether because it is serves as a climactic moment.

Any significant changes might require shooting new scenes, the newspaper reported. – Michael Thurston, Agence France-Presse