In the wake of a shooting that left 12 people dead at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises on Friday, many Batman fans have cancelled plans to attend the film's big opening weekend -- and some might skip the movie altogether.
Under the hashtag #theatershooting, posts have been rolling in from Twitter users who are so shaken up over the tragedy in Aurora, Colo., that they cannot bear the thought of seeing the film so soon.
After what happened in the Denver #theatershooting i am not going to see Batman, tweeted @SimplyCharvetta.
So sad. But now I know I'm not going to go see The Dark Knight Rises, added @crazyycaitlyn.
Other users are apparently staying home for fear that copycat shooters might unleash similar attacks: I wanted to see the Batman movie, but I will not risk my life because I like Batman, Twitter user @Enjoy_Head posted.
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New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly echoed the copycat concern in a statement, saying that the city plans to beef up police presence at theaters throughout the five boroughs where the film is playing.
But other fans of the Caped Crusader were not so distraught. I'm taking my son tonight, and I live in Colorado, said Marcus Rush, a father from Colorado Springs. I don't see this being an outbreak so much as an isolated incident.
Three years ago, death also hung in the air over the premiere of The Dark Knight. What surely would have already been one of the biggest openings of the year was transformed -- by the untimely death of Heath Ledger six months earlier -- into the movie that everyone had to see. Ledger, who died of a drug overdose in his SoHo apartment, was said to be consumed by his role as the Joker -- holing himself up in his hotel room, recording the thoughts and motivations of his deranged character in a diary and suffering from insomnia.
Ledger's tortured backstory lent philosophical weight to Christopher Nolan's darkly metaphorical comic-book tale, and on the eve of its opening, it became clear that the spirit of Heath would catapult The Dark Knight to a new level. The film smashed all previous opening-weekend records and became the highest-grossing film of 2008.
Now death is once again overshadowing an installment of the Batman trilogy that many have called a political allegory for an age of terrorism. At the same time, insiders are likely discussing the potential effect of that tragedy on the film's bottom line. The red-carpet premiere of The Dark Knight Rises has been canceled in Paris, and press-junket interviews with Nolan and the cast have also been nixed. In its two-sentence statement about the incident, Warner Bros. expressed its sympathies to the families but gave no indication that it planned to cancel U.S. screenings.
If all of this point to the inevitable chatter of a Dark Knight Curse, it's important to point out that such talk emerged in 2008, after Ledger's death was followed by Christian Bale's family feud, Morgan Freeman's near-fatal car accident and the death of a crewman during the opening sequence -- none of which made so much as a dent in the movie's performance.
Meanwhile, Variety reported early on Friday that the 3,700 midnight locations of The Dark Knight Rises have taken in an estimated $28 million to $30 million, far out grossing the $18.4 million taken in at midnight screenings of The Dark Knight. Those numbers, of course, were taken in before news of the tragedy broke. And if testimony from Twitter user @sweetandsourkid is any indication, that could mean all the difference.
I'm definitely not going to the theaters to see The Dark Knight Rises now! he tweeted on Friday morning. I'll wait until it comes out on the Internet.