By JAKE COYLE
NEW YORK — The movie industry grappled Friday with the deadly Colorado shooting at a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises,” as one of the most anticipated films in years became enmeshed with a massacre.
The film’s director, Christopher Nolan, speaking for the cast and crew, expressed their “profound sorrow at the senseless tragedy,” lamenting the violence brought into the cinema, where moviegoers had gathered for what was supposed to be a celebratory opening night.
“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,” said Nolan. “The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”
The shooting reverberated through Hollywood and upended carefully laid plans for the global release of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Warner Bros. quickly canceled a premiere planned for Paris and canceled press interviews in France.
Warner Bros. rushed to react to the tragedy, saying in a statement that it extended “our prayers and deepest sympathies to the victims, their loved ones and those affected by this tragedy.” Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said he had been up since 4 a.m. making calls.
“Everybody is very saddened by the event. We were obviously looking for a very happy occasion for us,” Fellman said. “It’s a difficult way to begin. We’re just more concerned now with the well-being of those that were injured, of course.”
Warner Bros. had no further comment on whether screenings might be canceled or precautions taken. The studio did take the unprecedented step of delaying its reporting of eagerly awaited weekend box office figures for “Dark Knight” from Sunday to Monday “out of respect for the victims and their families.”
Warner Bros. also moved to pull trailers for its upcoming movie “Gangster Squad” from showings of “The Dark Knight Rises.” The trailer of the film, which stars Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling in a ruthless war between ’40s Los Angeles police and the mob, includes a scene of mobsters firing into a movie theater from behind the screen.
A person familiar with what was shown at the Aurora theater said the trailer did not play there. The person did not want to be identified because the person was not authorized to speak on the matter.
Cinemark Holdings Inc., the chain that owns the theater where the shooting happened, said it was working closely with local law enforcement. “Our thoughts and prayers are with the victims, their families and loved ones, our employees, and the Aurora community,” the company said.
Movie theaters around the country continued Friday showings of the film as planned, though some were stepping up security and conducting bag searches. New York police commissioner Raymond Kelly said the city was providing extra security in New York theaters playing “The Dark Knight Rises” ”as a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons.”
“The Dark Knight Rises” had expectations of being one of the biggest weekend openings ever. Its midnight screenings earned $30.6 million, Warner Bros. said Friday. The PG-13 film played in 3,825 theaters domestically in the midnight screenings, expanding to 4,404 cinemas nationwide Friday. Many showings on the weekend were sold out in advance.