Christopher Nolan, director of "The Dark Knight Rises," is calling the mass shooting at a midnight showing of the film in Aurora, Colo. that left at least 12 people dead and more than 70 injured a "senseless tragedy."
"Speaking on behalf of the cast and crew of 'The Dark Knight Rises,' I would like to express our profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy that has befallen the entire Aurora community," he said in a statement released by his publicist today. "I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie. I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime.
"The movie theatre is my home," he said, "and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me. Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."
Despite the tragedy, movie industry watchers say the film is likely to do well at the box office over the weekend.
"This is an unprecedented situation, but I believe the true fans still want to see this movie," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Hollywood.com's box office division. "The people who bought their tickets online, who opted for the presale, I don't see them giving up their tickets."
Much of the weekend has been presold; the movie made $30 million in presale tickets and shows in many cities are sold out through Sunday. That $30 million will get factored into today's numbers, which are expected to be released Saturday morning.
Some box-office analysts previously believed the final installment of director Christopher Nolan's trilogy could top the record-breaking, $207.4 million debut of "The Avengers." Dergarabedian thinks something in the more modest but still impressive range of $150 million is likely.
"Only five movies in history at this point have done a $150 million or more opening weekend," he noted.
"The Dark Knight," the second movie in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, made $158 million during its 2008 opening weekend.
Yahoo movies contributing editor Thelma Adams said the tragedy will take a bite out of the weekend gross.
"You have to preface it by saying it's only money," she said, "and we're dealing with lives that have been lost. That said, there will be some domestic underperformance. It is going to hurt."
Some theaters are offering to refund those who bought tickets early. AMC released a statement today saying it will exchange and refund tickets per the chain's existing policy. It also banned moviegoers in "costumes that make other guests feel uncomfortable" and said it "will not permit face-covering masks or fake weapons inside our buildings."
Suspected shooter James Holmes had painted his hair red and told cops, "I am the Joker," when apprehended.
Yahoo's Adams said the massacre would not likely affect the movie's global gross. The last Batman film, 2008's "The Dark Knight," made almost as much internationally, $469 million, as it did in the United States, $533 million.
"Maybe opening weekend will be a little bit less, but then the drop will not be as great," Adams said.
Warner Bros. canceled the Paris premiere of the film, scheduled for this evening, after learning about the shooting. Director Nolan and cast members Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Morgan Freeman also scrapped media interviews.
"Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident," the studio said in a statement. "We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."
Warner Bros. also removed the trailer for the Ryan Gosling film "Gangster Squad," which features a movie theater shooting scene, from screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises." The studio pulled some TV ads for the Batman film, according to Bloomberg News. The studio does not plan to pull the movie from theaters.
Many cities are stepping up security at theaters in light of the tragedy. New York City police Commissioner Ray Kelly released a statement this morning, saying, "As a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons in the wake of the horrendous shooting in Colorado, the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where the 'The Dark Knight Rises' is playing in the five boroughs."
Police in Washington, D.C., have been told to provide "special attention" to movie theaters.
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