It's difficult to conceive of a time when "The Dark Knight Rises" won't automatically conjure mental images of the deadly shooting at a midnight screening of the film that left 12 dead and 59 injured in Aurora, Colo. last week. That kind of stuff is supposed to happen on a Hollywood set -- and whether that should even happen is certainly a hot topic in the wake of Aurora -- not in the theater seat next to you. But this isn't the first time that a bad thing has happened to a good movie.
Denzel Washington's gritty 2001 "Training Day" saw its release date pushed back in the wake of 9/11. The idea was that audiences needed time to support New York City's finest before patronizing a film in which a crooked cop is much more predator than protector. "Spider-Man" had its initial trailer pulled when the World Trade Center was attacked; the clip featured the Twin Towers as literal anchors for the superhero's bank robber-catching web. "Men in Black 2" was also affected by 9/11, as its original ending was supposed to take place at the twin towers.
Colin Farrell wasn't the only one who found himself at the whim of a psycho sniper when he starred in the 2003 thriller "Phone Booth." Twentieth Century Fox was also in the hot seat, forced to make the decision to postpone the film that became all too real when a Virginia sniper left ten civilians dead. The real-life victims were killed while pumping gas or mowing the grass, while the blockbuster's protagonist made himself the target by simply answering a pay phone. The threat was real.
More recently, the Ben Stiller comedy "The Watch" (in theaters July 27 and originally titled "Neighborhood Watch") was forced to adjust its marketing campaign in the wake of the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. The film's original posters pictured a typical neighborhood watch sign freckled with bullet holes -- an eerie reminder of neighborhood watch captain George Zimmerman's February killing of the 17-year-old.
And last week's Aurora massacre isn't only sitting squarely on the shoulders of "The Dark Knight Rises." The upcoming Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone crime drama "Gangster Squad" features a scene depicting four men standing behind a movie theater screen before opening fire on the audience. Now, after pulling the film's trailer, the studio is scrambling to re-shoot what should have been Gosling's golden gift to moviegoers this fall. New reports suggest Warner Bros. may even push the film's release date into 2013.
So does a case of bad timing have the ability to permanently mar a film, making it a constant reminder of real-life tragedy rather than entertainment?
"After congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot last year, people spoke of politics being more civil forever and now, only a year and a half later its back to normal," Ronn Torossian, CEO of top PR agency 5WPR, told The Huffington Post. "Movies will be the same. Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have both temporarily pulled negative campaign ads in Colorado and as sure as I am that their negative ads will return, so too will regular marketing for ['The Dark Knight Rises']."
"Training Day" isn't remembered for any perceived anti-9/11 components, "Phone Booth" isn't known as the DC sniper flick, and though the tragedy in Aurora may be the top story associated with "The Dark Knight Rises," it appears as though the film will eventually create its own legacy.
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