Warner Bros.’ The Joker will not be playing at the Cinemark Aurora theater where the 2012 Dark Knight Rises mass shooting took place, killing 12 and wounding 70.
We understand that this is a decision that was mutually made by both the studio and Cinemark which owned the Century 16, now known as the Century Aurora and XD.
The Joker in its story of a disturbed man who gets possession of a gun and uses it has some awful echoes for five people of the 300-plus Aurora, Colorado victim base, especially in the wake of several mass shootings this summer in Gilroy, CA; El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio. The Joker won high praise coming out of its fall film festival run, winning the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival, along with awards buzz for Joaquin Phoenix’s turn as the Batman villain. On tracking, Joker could potentially open to a domestic October box office record of $80M-plus.
This morning, in an open letter to Warner Bros. CEO and chairperson Ann Sarnoff in the Hollywood trades, the families of Aurora victims Jessica Ghawi, Alexander J. Boik, Ashley Moser; and Tiina Coon, whose son was a witness to the shooting, expressed how they were given pause “when we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called Joker that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story.” Warners didn’t have a response to the letter when reached, but we understand a statement is forthcoming.
The five who signed today’s letter didn’t demand for Warners to pull The Joker from theaters, rather, “we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.”
The five Aurora family members further asked Warners to “End political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun reform. These lawmakers are literally putting your customers and employees in danger. Use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers. Help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence and to reduce every-day gun violence in the communities you serve. Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act. We certainly hope that you do.”
Following the Dark Knight Rises mass shooting, Warner Bros, took immediate actions and donated $2M which went directly to the victims and their survivors.
The letter this morning was signed by Sandy and Lonnie Phillips who lost their daughter Jessica Ghawi on July 20, 2012; Theresa Hoover who lost her 18-year-old son Alexander J. Boik; Heather Dearman, whose cousin Ashley Moser, lost an unborn child and a 6-year-old daughter in the attack; and Tiina Coon, whose son witnessed the shootings. It is Deadline’s understanding that many of the Aurora families and victims chose not to sign the letter when asked.
Although reports surfaced soon after the shooting in the media that the Dark Knight Rises gunman was inspired by the Joker character, that was proven false in evidence presented in court by the shooter’s own words to his psychiatrist.