In the wake of the summer’s mass shootings, there’s plenty of concern surrounding the opening of Warner Bros’ The Joker on October 4, particularly as it’s poised to bring in a record amount of moviegoers for an October release.
Despite the Gilroy-Dayton-El Paso shootings, some sources in distribution and exhibition believe fears surrounding The Joker are over-heightened, especially with the LAPD issuing a statement Thursday night that it does not see any credible threats in the Los Angeles area regarding the pic’s opening.
Industry sources also tell us that the FBI and Homeland Security do not currently foresee looming threats related to the Todd Phillips-directed DC origin movie that centers on the crazed Batman villain.
Said the LAPD tonight in a statement received by Deadline, “The Los Angeles Police Department is aware of public concerns and the historical significance associated with the premiere of the Joker. While there are no credible threats in the Los Angeles area, the Department will maintain high visibility around movie theaters when it opens. We encourage everyone to go out and enjoy all of the weekend leisure activities this city has to offer however, Angelenos should remain vigilant and always be aware of your surroundings. As always if you see something, say something.”
We also hear that the National Association of Theatre Owners hasn’t been alerted by the FBI or other law enforcement of any threats surrounding Joker. If such intel was received, NATO would pass any relevant information along to its members so they can make their own security decisions.
Two days ago, Stars & Stripes published a report that an Army Criminal Investigation Command memo was issued earlier this week and put commanders at Fort Sill in Oklahoma on notice about an intelligence bulletin stating a Texas law enforcement agency working with the FBI had discovered “disturbing and very specific chatter in the dark web” regarding the potential targeting of an unknown theater for a mass shooting during the weekend of Joker‘s release.
That said, exhibition isn’t being irresponsible, and exhibitors do not detail their specific security plans to the press. Warner Bros has had the unfortunate and horrible experience of having gone through a mass shooting tragedy with the The Dark Knight Rises in 2012 in Aurora, CO. The studio knows what type of film it has on its hands with Joker. Movie theaters in certain neighborhoods are very aware of the type of film they’re booking, and that masses descend upon their theaters.
Security sources have informed Deadline that security always gets beefed up at high-volume theaters during any big box office weekend, especially around the holidays. It doesn’t take a Joker movie to simply put everyone on high alert. Note that Dark Knight Rises previews began at midnight, which was when the Aurora tragedy occurred, and since then – with the recent exception of Sony’s Spider-Man: Far From Home – major studios have largely eliminated opening their films at midnight Thursday-into-Friday. Joker will begin its previews October 3 at 4 PM.
During Star Wars: The Force Awakens, security was increased in downtown LA multiplexes from the usual average of 3 or 4 guards to 9 to 12, per sources at the time. Expect that type of responsibility here with Joker.
In regards to whether Warners foots the bill for extra security or not, that’s always on an exhibitor-by-exhibitor basis. For Straight Outta Compton, Universal said they were “partnering” with movie theaters that requested support during screenings of the N.W.A biopic. Specific details were scant at the time, but it wasn’t a straight matter of the studio outright reimbursing theaters for any costs associated with heightened security, rather the studio sharing some of the costs.
AMC theaters issued a statement yesterday assuring their customers that they plan to be vigilant and enforce their costume policy that forbids masks, face paint or any object that conceals the face.
Said the theater chain in a statement, “The safety of our guests and associates is AMC’s top priority. Working with law enforcement, AMC has a number of safety and security protocols in place at all of its theatres. To help ensure that safety, we do not discuss specifics. Because we’re also getting calls about our costume policy, I want to make sure it’s clear that this is AMC’s standard costume policy, which has been in place for several years and applies to all movies at all times: Guests are welcome to come dressed in costume, but we do not permit masks, face paint or any object that conceals the face. AMC does not permit weapons or items that would make other guests feel uncomfortable or detract from the movie-going experience.”
Landmark is banning toy weapons and masks, while Regal, like AMC, says it’s in contact with law enforcement and does not comment on security protocol.