Showings of "Joker" movie threatened with shootings
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Mason Bennett, S&T Editor
The psychological thriller “Joker,” starring Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix, has prompted a “credible potential mass shooting” threat on a movie theater somewhere in the United States, military officials warn in a memorandum last week. The alarming notice came from Fort Sills Army base in Oklahoma, and is reportedly based on intelligence gathered by the FBI from the “disturbing and very specific” chatter of extremists on the dark web. “Commanders need to be aware of this threat for Soldier and family safety and to increase situational awareness should they choose to attend the release of this movie at a local theater,” says the memorandum, now obtained by a plethora of news organizations.
The movie, which won the Golden Lion for Best Film at the Venice International Film Festival earlier this month, still premiered nationwide on October 4th last week, despite the alarming threats. The threat explained in the memorandum warranted the “widest dissemination” to the Fort Sills community, although it was not made clear that it is directed at a specific theater. Many believe this threat of a potential theater shooting is a repeat of the September 20th, 2012, mass shooting that left 12 people dead and 70 injured during a screening in Aurora, Colorado, of “The Dark Knight.” Similar to “Joker,” this was a film about another Batman villain.
With this, loved ones of those killed in the massacre at the Aurora shooting sent a letter to the film’s distributor, Warner Brothers, asking the studio to commit to gun control causes. Many of these individuals report being disturbed by the violence depicted in a trailer for the “Joker.” “Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers,” was one of the statements in the letter. Warner Brothers chose to not screen the film in the movie theater in Aurora where the mass shooting occurred. Additionally, the company formally responded to the growing concerns of the community: “Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies,” the statement reads, “Make no mistake: Neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real world violence of any kind.” The fans continued to express their desire for Warner Brothers to help fund gun violence intervention programs and lobby for gun reform in the letter: “When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called ‘Joker’ that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause,” the letter said. “We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book can tell you, with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.”
Police departments around the country are the first to have taken action to these frightening threats, however. “While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement,” the FBI said. This has already been exercised in the Century Huntington Beach Theater in Los Angeles. Managers outside the theater told customers they can get a refund for the ticket, and return another day to see the film. The Los Angeles Police Department said it was increasing patrols during the opening weekend. More and more precautionary measures are being taken across the country as the film continues to air, in which police increase security and closer tabs are kept on those watching the movie.