Sep 24, 2019

"Joker" won't play at Aurora theater where 2012 mass shooting occurred

Kimber Avra sits by a cross honoring her friend Micayla Medek at a remembrance ceremony on July 20, 2013 in Aurora, Colo. Photo: Dana Romanoff/Getty Images

The Aurora, Colo., movie theater where a 2012 mass shooting took place during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" will not show the forthcoming "Joker," reports the Hollywood Reporter.

What's happening: Relatives and friends of those killed also penned a letter about their concerns to Warner Bros. regarding the new film's premiere. It states that they are "calling on [the studio] to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe."

  • The letter asks Warner Bros. to donate to groups that support victims of gun violence and not to donate to political candidates who support the NRA.

What they're saying: Some Aurora families have expressed concern that "Joker" — which features Joaquin Phoenix as a mentally ill antihero and killer who becomes Batman's foe — hits too close to home.

  • James Holmes, who killed 12 and injured 70 in the Aurora shooting, had dyed hair similar to the Joker's at the time of the shooting. It was also incorrectly reported that he referred to himself as "the Joker" at the time of his arrest — a connection likely spurred due to his decision to attack a screening of a Batman film.
  • Sandy Phillips, whose daughter Jessica Ghawi died during the shooting, told THR that the new film is like a "slap in the face" and expressed concern that the audience may connect with the volatile character and find inspiration in the film.

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"Joker" rakes in $93.5 million on opening weekend despite security concerns

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Warner Bros.' "Joker" topped the October opening-weekend box office record, bringing in $93.5 million despite security concerns over the film's violent themes, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The big picture: The film received stellar praise during its film festival debuts but sparked a backlash from some critics over whether its portrayal of the Batman series' villain — an outcast with a neurological deficit who becomes a mass murderer — could inspire violence. Most notably, families of the victims of the 2012 shooting at a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado — another Batman film — penned a letter to the studio citing concerns about the film.

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Hollywood's cave to China on censorship

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While the U.S. reckons with the fact that China's market power can stymie free speech after the NBA's firestorm, Hollywood — America's premier cultural exporter —  has long willingly bent to Chinese censorship to rake in profits.

Why it matters: China is set to become the world's biggest movie market in 2020, and with its 1.4 billion citizens, it won't relinquish that title anytime soon. That means it's key for Hollywood studios to do all they can to ensure that their tentpoles can pass the standards of the country's strict censors.

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American speech puts spotlight on Chinese censorship

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In less than 48 hours, three American companies in the business of mass entertainment have found themselves at the center of a political storm about China's aggressive censorship.

Why it matters: Media and entertainment have long acted as extensions of free speech with a mass reach, making them both vehicles for public expressions of controversial views and targets of government censorship.

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