Studio navigates massacre aftermath

The Dark Knight Rises. (Handout)

The Dark Knight Rises. (Handout)

MICHAEL RECHTSHAFFEN, Special to QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:22 PM ET

HOLLYWOOD -- The word "sensitivity" isn't one that usually gets a lot of play where Hollywood is concerned.

So it was interesting to see how the movie industry was going to deal with the Colorado shooting.

There's obviously a tricky balance to consider--if the perception by the media and the general public is that the steps you're taking aren't sufficient, then you're going to be accused of being cold and callous and concerned only about salvaging your box office receipts.

Then again, if you, as a studio head or a theatre owner, appear to be overcompensating, the perception could be that you might be assuming some of the blame for what happened, playing into the hands of the screen-violence-breeds-violent-behaviour contingent.

The first bit of business from Warner Bros., the studio behind The Dark Knight Rises, was, of course, to issue a statement extending sympathies to the families of the victims.

Their second move was to announce that they were withholding revealing/trumpeting Dark Knight's box office data until the end of the weekend out of respect to those victims.

Even Warner Bros. must have conceded that the gesture seemed on the lame side, because, on Monday, in addition to releasing those figures, it was later revealed that they will be making an undisclosed but "substantial" donation to a program that funds charities in support of the Colorado victims.

Meanwhile, the studio also pulled the trailers for its upcoming crime thriller Gangster Squad from theatres, which included a sequence where a bunch of mobsters opened fire on an audience from behind a movie screen.

It isn't the first time Warner Bros. has found itself having to realign its marketing plans in the face of a tragedy.

In the aftermath of the 2011 earthquake in Japan, the studio pulled Clint Eastwood's Hereafter from Japanese theatres because of a vivid tsunami sequence.

A decade earlier Disney's Touchstone Pictures pushed back the Barry Sonnenfeld comedy Big Trouble from its original Sept. 21, 2001 release date because it involved the smuggling of a WMD aboard a plane.

Looking ahead, it will be interesting to see if 20th Century Fox encounters any friction surrounding this weekend's release of The Watch, an edgy neighbourhood watch comedy, so close in proximity to the events surrounding the Trayvon Martin killing.

In an industry where timing is everything, current events could have Hollywood under the gun.


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