The Dark Night Rises Faces Marketing Crisis after Colorado Tragedy


I, like millions of other people across America, was absolutely shocked when I woke up this morning to email news alerts about the shooting in Colorado at a midnight showing of one of the summer’s most anticipated flicks: The Dark Night Rises. This horrific act makes me wonder how things can go so horribly wrong for an individual that mass murder seems like a realistic option. I feel so sorry for the families of the tragic event’s victims and the survivors who are no doubt traumatized. But I didn’t give any thought to the marketing of the Batman movie, and how this horrific turn of events would impact that. But, it appears that Warner Bros. and the Batman movie have a huge mess to clean up. This shooting will have unknown implications to the movie’s success, the Warner Bros. company and the countless number of brands and sponsors that were being highlighted in the movie’s promotions (Poggi, 2012). Warner Bros. has, in a matter of hours, cancelled the Paris red carpet and countless interviews with the director and cast (Poggi, 2012.) Speculation is running wild about the possibility of copycat crimes and the safety of movie goers, especially in large cities like New York (Poggi, 2012). Warner Bros. has already contacted networks like ESPN and ABC, asking them to take down some of the movie’s ads in light of the tragedy (Steinberg, 2012). Without opening weekend advertising, how can the movie be expected to fair?

The movie was already being hailed as very dark and violent but had only been given a PG-13 rating (Powell, 2012). Analysts say that the movie has enjoyed an extensive marketing and media campaign up until now that will undoubtedly help mitigate the negative impacts of this morning’s events (Powell, 2012). But as the line becomes blurrier between PG-13 and R ratings, it has many wondering if extreme violence in movies has led to a desensitization to violence, which has spurred many public displays of violence (Powell, 2012). The Dark Night Rises may now be unwillingly forced into the spotlight as the poster child for why movies are becoming too violent. For a movie that was positioned, marketing wise, to top even the staggering numbers of the recent Avenger’s premiere, it’s a classic case of bad timing (Ryan, 2012).

Images like these, from the movie, won’t help, as this looks shockingly similar to the gas mask worn by the shooter:




Warner Bros. reaction to the tragedy has been honorable, from a marketing and PR standpoint. They have pulled all ads showcasing the violent portions of the movie, have cancelled appearances, issued a statement of sympathy and have failed to promote the film’s midnight showings success, said to be upwards of $30 million and the second-largest on record, which would have been a normal practice of the movie promotion business, had this never happened (Niiler, 2012). Industry experts site other examples of bad movie marketing timing, from Heath Ledger’s death prior to the Dark Night’s initial release in 2008 to FOX’s recent name change of a summer series from Neighborhood Watch to the The Watch after Trayvon Martin was killed earlier this year (Poggi, 2012). But is the movie and its marketing efforts forever tainted with the memory of today’s events? For now, the biggest questions on everyone’s minds are what drove the shooter to commit this tragedy and if Warner Bros. will be forced to pull the film for the foreseeable future (Ryan, 2012). No film has ever been pulled from production but industry experts also say that this is such an unprecedented situation that anything remains possible (Ryan, 2012).

Niiler, E. (2012). Is Dark Night violence factor in shooting? Discovery News. Retrieved from

Poggi, J. (2012). In light of ‘Dark Knight’ tragedy, movie marketers face questions. Ad Age. Retrieved from

Powell, K. (2012). Batman, Colorado, Guns, Terrorism. Huffington Post. Retrieved from

Ryan, J. (2012). Dark Knight Rises: Warners has no plans to pull film following Colorado tragedy, but future cloudy. E News. Retrieved from

Steinberg, B. (2012). Time Warner pulls some ‘Dark Knight’ TV ads. Ad Age. Retrieved from

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4 Responses to The Dark Night Rises Faces Marketing Crisis after Colorado Tragedy

  1. Jake White says:


    Like you, I woke up the horrific news of the senseless killings in Colorado at the midnight showing of The Dark Night Rises. You bring up an interesting point how this sad event will affect the future marketing efforts of this blockbuster movie. As a Christopher Nolan fan, I was planning to attend a Sunday morning showing of the film and must admit that last night’s events have given me pause. I anticipate much of the movie’s advertising will be pulled in the near future and a significantly lower box office result than the opening of its predecessors. As you state, Warner Bros. has handled this crisis well on Day #1 – unfortunately I am afraid the impact will continue for quite some time.

    Television and radio personalities are discussing issues of increased security procedures for theaters across the country. I find it truly heartbreaking that one of our traditional pass-times is being tainted by the violent act of a disturbed individual. Will we soon experience the metal detectors that since my youth have been installed in airports, government buildings, high schools, college football games, etc.? I think a better answer is severe gun control but that is a topic for a future discussion…

  2. Felipe Camacho says:


    Thank you for taking a moment in honor of the lives lost, and forever changed, by this vile and senseless act. All our thoughts and prayers will continue for the families.

    Warner Bros has acted commendably in scaling back its advertising and marketing campaign. My thought is, though, that the movie will probably end up doing very well at the box office, in spite of the reduced advertising. Though the tragedy is terribly disheartening, people will not likely hold the movie responsible for the acts of one deranged man.

    I have been a comic book fan as far back as I can remember; Batman: Detective comics are my favorite. In the stories, the Batman character is sometimes blamed for giving rise to increasingly more villainous characters. Ironically, it this line of storytelling that sells evermore comics and gives rise to on-screen versions of the tales.

    What drives the popularity of these new films isn’t so much the marketing as it is the advances in motion picture technologies. The viewing public craves more elaborate special effects, more realistic (life-like) characters, and drama that nearly overwhelms the senses. This new genre of comic book movies has created a more sophisticated brand than the cartoon-ish big-screen productions of the 90’s and before. The comic book characters are brands in and of themselves, and have become ingrained in pop-culture. The word-of-mouth these movies generate is ultimately their driving force.

    Sadly, some people choose to mimic fiction and in doing so scar our society. Yet, we keep making and consuming violent movies, video games, and literature. One can’t help but concede that this stuff sells itself…

  3. EAlarcon says:

    Jennifer –

    It was interesting to see Warner Bros. reaction to the horrific crime in Colorado. The idea of holding back earnings for that weekend was indeed classic. Not only for Warner Bros., but other major studios that decided to withhold earning out of respect for the victims. While some of the other actions that Warner Bros. took may be considered an over-reaction by some, they took a “better to be safe” approach. However, you pose an interesting question: Will Warner Bros. be forced to pull the film for the foreseeable future? While the answer is unknown, I would hope not. Cinema continues to be one example of freedom of expression and art. While I may not be a fan of various genres, I still believe in the magic of it beholds on the viewer. No one could have imagined the terrible act that happened last weekend, and we pray that it does not happen again. It saddens me to think the possibility that the movie going experience has been changed forever. Thanks for sharing

  4. kopec says:


    This is a really well put together post, thoughtful, insightful, and sensitive. I appreciate the way you present the marketing crisis, while at the same time, not diminishing the tragic events that unfolded.

    It does seem like an impossible situation for a company that spent $250 million on film to navigate. Advanced ticket sales on sites like Fandango were robust, likely lessening the impact to the initial weekend. Sales have dropped 76 percent in the opening week, although some speculate that the Olympics opening ceremony may be part of the reason (it was watched by record numbers).

    WB, Nolan, and everyone else involved with the film have done a great job so far with their communications efforts.

    I wonder what the impact will be to other films like “Gangster Squad”. Previews for that film have been pulled from theaters due to a scene in which gunmen open fire in a theatre, it’s unlikely that film will be released as is any time soon. It reminds me of Donnie Darko, a wonderful film that begins with part of a plane falling out of the sky and crashing into a house. The film was released in October of 2001, and most distributers refused to show it so close to the tragic events of 9/11. The film didn’t find an audience until DVD sales and rentals helped it develop a cult following.