Warner Brothers’ ‘Joker’ is looking to be a huge hit when it opens next weekend. It got a rousing eight-minute standing ovation at the Venice Film Festival, and Academy Award buzz is already building. But understandably, the picture won’t screen at the Cinemark Aurora theater, where, in 2012, 12 people were killed and 70 others were injured when an armed gunman opened fire during a midnight screening of ‘The Dark Knight’, another cinematic release featuring the DC villain The Joker (played by Heath Ledger).
This was a mutual decision made between Warner Brothers and Cinemark, which owned the Century 16, which is now named the Century Aurora and XD.
The families of Aurora victims Jessica Ghawi, Alexander J. Boik, Ashley Moser; and Tiina Coon, whose son was a witness to the shooting, penned an open letter to o Warner Bros. CEO and chairperson Ann Sarnoff which was published today in the Hollywood trades, which said in part that the families were disturbed “when we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story.”
The families did not call for the studio to pull ‘Joker’ (because that wouldn’t happen), but instead urged the studio to join the battle for gun control. There have already been multiple mass shooting incidents in the US this year, in Gilroy, CA; El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio.
Warner Brothers has responded with the following statement:
“Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero.
“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bipartisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues.”
Theaters and theater chains have every right to determine what films they screen, but there can be some ramifications to boycotting films from major studios. Luckily, it sounds like WB is being reasonable when it comes to this picture which is connected to such a tragedy. It may have happened years ago, but the families of those killed will never recover from those losses. Considering the connection between ‘Joker’ and ‘The Dark Knight’, it makes sense that those living in the area wouldn’t necessarily want the reminder.
For everyone else, ‘Joker’ opens on October 4.