The film industry, movie fans and law enforcement officials have been left reeling after the horrific overnight movie-theatre shooting that has cast a black cloud over The Dark Knight Rises, one of the most anticipated films of the year.
A gunman opened fire at a midnight screening of the third and final film in Christopher Nolan's Batman trilogy, inside one of several packed movie theatres at a complex in Aurora, east of downtown Denver early Friday.
The suspect, James Holmes, 24, is now in police custody. A dozen people were killed and 59 others injured, authorities said at a press conference Friday afternoon.
The tragic incident in the suburban Denver community sent shockwaves across the Atlantic, with Hollywood studio Warner Bros. immediately cancelling the Batman film's splashy Parisian premiere Friday evening.
"Warner Bros. is deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident. We extend our sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time," the studio said in a statement.
Also cancelled were the related interviews with French media. Reporters gathered at a Paris hotel for a daytime press conference with Nolan, and stars Christian Bale, Anne Hathaway and Morgan Freeman were told to leave. Meanwhile, a local TV station set to interview French actress and cast member Marion Cotillard Friday evening said the appearance was cancelled.
Workers quickly removed the red carpet display and The Dark Knight Rises signage from outside a theatre on the famed Champs Élysée.
The studio had no further comment on other potential cancellations of The Dark Knight Rises. However, Warner Bros. did pull trailers for its upcoming film Gangster Squad from some screenings.
The 1940s-set mobster drama includes a scene in which gunmen fire into a movie theatre from behind the screen — imagery that is included in the upcoming film's trailer.
The U.S. National Association of Theater Owners offered "hearts and prayers" to the victims in a statement that emphasized that guest safety remains a priority for its members, who are "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."
The sentiment was echoed north of the border. Canadian theatre chain Cineplex said it has security measures in place across its venues and will donate a portion of Friday's box office proceeds to a violence-prevention charity.
"We are shocked and saddened by last night's tragedy in Aurora, Colorado, and extend our deepest sympathies to the family and friends of those affected. The safety and security of our guests remains our top priority, and while we believe this was an isolated incident, we have security measures in place for our upcoming shows," the Canadian theatre giant said in a statement.
"Cineplex Entertainment will donate a portion of the proceeds from tonight's box office to the Red Cross RespectED: Violence and Abuse Prevention program. This program provides violence and abuse prevention education in schools and communities across Canada."
Industry watchers had forecast that Dark Knight Rises could potentially set box office records for the coming weekend, since the last instalment, The Dark Knight, made $158.4 million US in its first three days, and a host of weekend screenings were already sold out in advance.
Friday's midnight screenings, which took place in 3,700 cinemas in the U.S. and Canada, earned $30.6 million US — the second-best midnight opening ever, behind $43.5 million US for the final Harry Potter film, Warner Bros. said on Friday.
The Dark Knight Rises expanded to more than 4,000 North American venues on Friday and theatres have continued with their scheduled screenings, though some locations have stepped up their security measures. In New York, for instance, police officials announced an increased presence at city cinemas.
"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 theatres where The Dark Knight Rises is playing in the five boroughs," police commissioner Ray Kelly said in a statement.
Police spokesmen in Toronto and Vancouver told CBC News Friday there are no plans to boost staffing beyond the usual levels present at the opening of a major film.
The shooting is definitely on the minds of moviegoers, but it wasn't a deterrent to those who turned up for a midday screening in downtown Toronto.
"It certainly set a different mood for today," Adam Glen, a Toronto man queuing for a midday screening of The Dark Knight Rises, told CBC News on Friday.
"I mean, obviously, my thoughts and prayers are with the people in Colorado. It's a terrible thing to happen.… For] people who went last night at midnight and people here today, it's an exciting event and to have this shadow over it is just awful. But it didn't change my excitement for the movie and I'm sure it didn't change many other peoples' as well.
"We don't know what motivated this guy. We don't know why he did it, but to say, 'maybe he saw ... the movie and wanted to try this for real' is just disgusting. We should be focusing on dealing with this tragedy — helping the victims recover, helping the survivors deal with what they've been through. We shouldn't be jumping to these big conclusions … every time one crazy guy goes out there and decides to ruin a bunch of people's lives."