The last time I was truly excited for a movie premiere was seven years ago for “The Dark Knight Rises.”
It was going to be Christopher Nolan’s final installment in “The Dark Knight” series. My friends and I got tickets for the first showing.
The theater was packed. The mood was electric. We arrived so early, that to avoid boredom we broke out a Velcro golf kit and started playing at the front of the theater.
That was likely one of the last times that kind of impromptu tomfoolery would be allowed at a movie theater. The next morning, the breaking news was a shooting that occurred at a screening of the same movie in Aurora, Colorado, where the gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others.
Since then, fears of movie theater shootings, and public shootings in general, have continued. In the case of movie theater safety, not a whole lot has been done. For a short while after the Aurora shooting, theaters like Regal Cinemas, which owns St. Joseph’s sole theater, threatened to check peoples’ bags. But that either was short-lived or never implemented.
The topic of movie theater violence has reignited with the release of this week’s sole blockbuster, the dark, R-rated “Joker,” starring Joaquin Phoenix as the legendary villain. This iteration of The Joker is portrayed as Arthur Fleck, a “King of Comedy,” Rupert Pupkin-like character who’s so shunned and literally beaten down by society that he turns to violence to shift the power dynamic.
In response to fears that another “Batman”-related movie could spark a mass shooting, theaters have mentioned the possibility of having security guards at screenings. Landmark Theatres, which runs 50 theaters in the U.S., has banned costumed moviegoers from showing up.
I see the reason to take precautions. Compared to hyper-violent blockbusters that prominently feature guns, like the “John Wick” and “Fast and Furious” movies that have been released in the years since “The Dark Knight Rises,” there’s more of a sense of grounded, gritty reality to “Joker’s” look and feel. His shift from a misunderstood member of society to a stone-cold killer seems to cut pretty close to the rotten core of many of America’s recent mass killers.
I don’t know how we properly respond to it, outside of increasing security guards at theaters (which hasn’t noticeably happened) or running people through metal detectors, like they do at concerts (which theaters aren’t equipped with the resources to pull off).
Earlier this week, my friend wrote on social media about wanting to see “Joker” on opening night but likely waiting for the hype and crowds to simmer down, to hopefully avoid any threat of gun violence. Speaking for myself, movies have been an escape, a joy and an experience I look forward to on a weekly basis. I hate that people have taken that away and we have to even consider that something like that would happen.
— Andrew Gaug | St. Joe Live