Time Warner Inc. (TWX) canceled the Paris premiere for “The Dark Knight Rises,” and New York City deployed police officers to cinemas showing the Batman film after a gunman killed at least 12 people at a Colorado theater.
As many as 50 were shot when the gunman wearing a gas mask set off a tear gas bomb and opened fire at about 12:30 a.m. in the theater in Aurora, Colorado, operated by Cinemark (CNK) Holdings Inc. Police found explosives in the home of a 24-year-old man arrested at the adjacent shopping mall, Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates told reporters.
“The Dark Knight Rises” was expected to be one of New York-based Time Warner’s biggest movie of the year. The film was projected to generate as much as $198 million in U.S. ticket sales in its first weekend, which would be the second-best ever.
“Warner Bros. and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident,” the Burbank, California- based studio said today in a statement. “We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time.”
The studio halted plans for the red-carpet debut of the new Batman film in France. Interviews with stars Christian Bale and Anne Hathaway, and director Christopher Nolan were called off, according to the statement.
Time Warner was little changed at $39.12 at 12:20 p.m. in New York. Cinemark, based in Plano, Texas, declined 3.8 percent to $23.35. It’s the third-largest cinema operator in the U.S.
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.
“Cinemark is deeply saddened about this tragic incident,” James Meredith, a company executive, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the quick and professional reaction of all local law enforcement and emergency responders.”
President Barack Obama said the federal government would do whatever is necessary to bring the responsible parties to justice and to ensure public safety.
“My daughters go to the movies,” Obama said in Fort Myers, Florida. “What if Malia and Sasha had been at the theater?”
The alleged shooter was identified as James Holmes, 24. Oates, Aurora’s police chief, described the suspect’s apartment as “booby-trapped.”
The movie, which opened today, marks the third and final Batman pairing of actor Bale with director Nolan. Los Angeles Times critic Kenneth Turan, in a favorable review, called it “the bleakest, most despairing superhero film ever made.”
Knoxville, Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment Group (RGC), the largest U.S. theater operator, said it would adjust security as necessary. Carmike Cinemas Inc. (CKEC), based in Columbus Georgia, said it already employs uniformed and plainclothes police officers for security.
“Police reports indicate the suspect acted on his own,” Terrell Mayton, a Carmike spokesman, said in an interview. “There’s no evidence of any continuing threat. That’s what we’re being told.”
In the latest film, the Caped Crusader comes out of retirement to fight the villain Bane, who bombs roads in and out of Gotham City and triggers class warfare between the haves and have-nots.
Film fans at the theater in Aurora initially thought the incident was part of the movie, after the suspect pushed through a security door, set off the tear gas bomb and began shooting.
“I thought it was firecrackers or fireworks I didn’t think it was anything serious,” said Donovan Tate, 19, who was watching the movie in the theater next door to the one where the shooting occurred.
Some moviegoers had spent the afternoon watching the first two pictures in the Nolan-directed Batman trilogy. Tate bought tickets in advance with his football buddies, according to his mother Arlene Tate, 44.
“It’s really sad in this time and age you can’t go out and enjoy a movie,” she said. “Some people have a total disregard for life.”
The picture took in $28 million in midnight showings, beating the $18.7 million gross recorded for Walt Disney Co.’s “Marvel’s The Avengers,” the top-selling film this year, according analyst Eric Wold at B. Riley & Co. in San Francisco.
“A lot of people, a lot of parents will re-evaluate whether they send their children to a theater, not just this movie, any movie,” Wold said.
Matt Harrigan, an analyst with Wunderlich Securities Inc. in Denver, said he would be less concerned as a investor in Time Warner and more concerned about impact on Cinemark.
The shooting, Harrigan said, was “certainly enough for mom to stop a 12-year-old from going alone.”