Studio to pull some TV ads for ‘Dark Knight’ (video)

LOS ANGELES — Warner Bros. is canceling some television advertising for “The Dark Knight Rises” following the shooting Friday that killed at least 12 people in Aurora, Colo., according to two people with knowledge of the matter.

Two versions of the ads will be pulled entirely, said one of the people, who sought anonymity because the decision isn’t public.

The Time Warner Inc.-owned movie studio was considering other measures to adjust to the tragedy in the middle of opening weekend. Some advertisements have elements that may remind audiences of the shooting. The movie’s villain, Bane, for example, has his face covered by a mask in ads, similar to the gas mask worn by the shooter.

“There may be some link — it’s cautous, it’s appropriate for Warner Bros. to act in this way,” said Yong Liu, associate professor of marketing at the University of Arizona in Tucson. He said he expects ticket sales to be affected. “Not only sales, but emotions of audiences that watch the movie. That’s a big tragedy. It will have some influence.”

Warner Bros. spent an estimated $250 million on the production, according to researcher Internet Movie Database.

The movie, which opened Friday, marks the third and final Batman pairing of actor Christian Bale with director Christopher Nolan. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan, in a favorable review, called it “the bleakest, most despairing superhero film ever made.”

Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn., said it would adjust security as necessary. Carmike, based in Columbus Ga., said it already employs uniformed and plainclothes police officers for security.

AMC Entertainment Holdings, the second-largest chain, is reinforcing security, it said, without providing details. The company said it is banning costumes, masks or fake weapons inside its buildings.

The shooting hadn’t affected ticket sales as of this morning, Terrell Mayton, a spokesman for Carmike, said in an interview.

“We’re selling tickets right now,” he said. “People want to see this movie and they want to go to their theater.”

Before the shooting, forecasters had estimated that “The Dark Knight Rises” would collect as much as $198 million at the box office its opening weekend.

The picture took in $30.6 million in midnight showings in the United States, according to Hollywood.com Box-Office. The total marked the second-biggest midnight tally behind the final “Harry Potter” movie, which generated $43.5 million.

“A lot of people, a lot of parents will re-evaluate whether they send their children to a theater,” said Eric Wold, an analyst with B. Riley &Co. in San Francisco. “Not just this movie, any movie,”

The studio halted plans for the red-carpet debut in France. Interviews with Nolan and stars Bale and Anne Hathaway were called off, according to a statement from New York-based Time Warner.

Warner Bros. doesn’t plan to pull “Dark Knight” from any of the 4,404 screens currently showing Batman, according to Jessica Zacholl, a spokeswoman.

The studio isn’t revising down its sales estimate, according to a person familiar with the company’s plans who asked not to be named because the matter is sensitive. Most screenings in major metropolitan areas have been sold out through pre-orders, the person said.

New York City Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said the department would deploy officers to showings of the film in the five boroughs as a precaution against copycats and to ensure public safety.

The shooting may slow attendance over the weekend, though it is unlikely to affect the overall performance of the film as it plays through subsequent weeks, said Phil Contrino, editor of researcher Boxoffice.com.

“It’s not going to kill the movie,” said Contrino. “We panic when something like this happens, but it just takes time to get past our fears.”

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