Warner mulls changes to "Gangster Squad" movie after shooting

LOS ANGELES Sun Jul 22, 2012 7:23pm EDT

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Warner Bros. studio is rethinking its plans for the film "Gangster Squad" in light of a scene featuring a movie-theater shooting, but beyond that Hollywood executives expect little fall-out from the mass killing at a Batman screening on Friday in Aurora, Colorado.

Officials at Time Warner Inc-owned Warner Bros. are expected to meet on Monday to discuss whether to remove or edit the "Gangster Squad" shooting scene, or to change the September 7 release date for the film starring Sean Penn and Ryan Gosling, a person familiar with the discussions said.

On Friday, Warner Bros. yanked "Gangster Squad" trailers after a gunman killed 12 and wounded 58 at a midnight premiere of another Warner film, "The Dark Knight Rises." Trailers had included the scene in which men open fire with machineguns on an audience in a movie theater.

Warner Bros. has scaled back promotions for "The Dark Knight Rises," canceling a Paris premiere and calling off appearances by the cast in Mexico and Japan. Weekend box office results for the Batman movie came in slightly below projections, but the movie still grossed an estimated $162 million in the United States and Canada for the third-best opening weekend ever, according to Hollywood sources.

Industry experts said moviegoers were likely to move on quickly from the shooting and studios would proceed mostly as planned. Theaters tightened security over the weekend to reassure customers and one chain imposed new rules on costumes.

Upcoming releases that feature some violence are set to debut on schedule. "The Bourne Legacy," a new movie in the action series that stars Jeremy Renner in the role made famous by Matt Damon, is set for August 10. A remake of 1990 science fiction movie "Total Recall" will reach theaters on August 3.

"The immediate reaction is to go to some dark place when something like this happens. By Monday that's forgotten and the business of releasing a movie takes over," said one person familiar with the studios' thinking.

Especially for big-budget films, studios like to stick with planned openings as they spend tens of millions of dollars to raise awareness in advance. Filmgoers don't dwell on isolated incidents for long, said Peter Sealey, a former Columbia marketing chief who now heads the Sausalito Group consulting firm.

"The public's attention span is not that long for such tragedies, and they won't make the connection the further it fades into their memories," Sealey said.

"Gangster Squad" presents some unique issues due to the theater shooting scene, which bears an eerie resemblance to what transpired in Colorado. Sticking with the September 7 release date would require the film's stars to do press interviews in the next week or two and face questions about the scene and the shooting.

The studio could decide to go ahead with the debut but cancel the usual round of celebrity interviews and advance screenings typically used to generate early buzz about a movie.

A Warner Bros. spokeswoman had no comment on Sunday.

Hollywood sources estimated that "The Dark Knight Rises" would finish the weekend with $162 million from U.S. and Canadian theaters. That would rank as the third-highest opening weekend of all time, behind the $207 million record set by superhero movie "The Avengers" in May and the $169 million for the last summer's finale in the "Harry Potter" series.

Still, the "Dark Knight" opening appeared lower than box office watchers had forecast before the shooting, suggesting that some moviegoers decided to stay home in light of the incident. Ahead of the weekend, projections for the first three days ranged from $170 million to $198 million.

Warner Bros. said it would release sales figures on Monday.

(Editing by Dale Hudson)

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