I hope to not drag out discussing The Aurora Theater Shooting, which has sensationally dominated the headlines in the past week. If I keep bringing it up, I won’t apologize considering it happened in Denver where I live. Just today on Facebook, someone I knew who was friends with victim Alex Sullivan (who celebrated his 27th birthday) posted about attending his funeral. Like it or not, the Aurora Theater Shooting will directly or indirectly affect every moviegoer who attends a film in a theater. It’s only a matter of time. Many questions and concerns have arisen in the wake of the Aurora Theater Shooting. As the fallout continues in the coming weeks, people’s grief will motivate individuals to seek answers in what Hollywood should do. Will the industry respond to crowd safety or sanitize the content in the films?
Something must be done to address the concerns of the public. Currently, consumers are still nervous with what happened. As reported in Deadline.com: “NRG research is currently showing that 20%-25% of the domestic movie-going audience is still very hesitant to go this weekend because of the Colorado theater shooting.”
A lack of consumer confidence can hurt any business. If action isn’t taken quickly, this could damage the brand. And the industry cannot afford to be slow to action considering less then desirable profit news. It was announced today that the 2nd quarter profits for Regal Entertainment are lower as theater owners contend to make money. This reminds us the theater chains are struggling. An incident such as the shooting makes consumers feel leery. Redbox and Netflix is not only a cheaper option, it is perceived to be the safer alternative. This could cause the erosion of the theater going experience even more so.
Even Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein is noticing the potential impact of the shooting on his business…and wants to take action. In an interview with the Huffington Post, Weinstein said Hollywood “can’t shirk our responsibility” for portraying violence in film. This is a stunning omission from a man who help established the “Scream” franchise and other gruesome horror films in an offshoot studio Dimension Films which were popular during my high school years. Weinstein referenced bringing together directors such as Quentin Tarantino and Martin Scorsese together to join in on the discussion. This is a serious business when the man who profited off “Grindhouse” and “Pirhana 3D” wants to get filmmakers together to discuss toning down the violence! Maybe the shooting is the event which returns Hollywood to a squeaky clean image.
The industry cannot control guns, per say, but controlling the content is an option currently being explored. Are various forms of censorship the answer? Its already happening. As to be expected, the violent “Gangster Squad” was delayed into next year. What might have been a surprise to some was a scene featuring people being gunned down in a movie theater will be cut out entirely and even re-shot. It is a matter of taste to place distance from the event to the film. Is removing the entire scene acceptable? The studio thinks so. “Gangster Squad” is based on a true story and the theater scene could very well be based on actual events. If so, is this removing history? Will films need to censor story telling and possibly real events to appease audiences? This is a slippery-slope one that filmmakers and studios must take into consideration. Sensitivity must be taken into consideration, but constant censorship is never the answer.
A more realistic, common sense option is provided additional security at the theater. Unless metal detectors are installed in the lobbies, anyone can bring a gun into an auditorium. Theater chains can adopt simple security measures to ensure the safety of their guests. I expect industry wide regulation for all theater chains to occur by the end of the year. With sagging profits and the public perception of the shooting, the theater owners in the industry cannot afford to wait around. Additional security, maybe ones similar to a sporting event, might have to be commonplace to make people feel reassured. Of course, who would pay for that would yet to be determined? I find this to be a healthy medium then what is being discussed by the media. Social conservatives who blame violent films and liberals who want gun control are overlooking a more practical solution of on sight security.
On a final note, people will be asking the age-old question if violent movies had anything to do with the shooting. Somehow I doubt violent films influenced a man to gun-down a theater full of people. We don’t know the motives of the shooter, but I don’t think the movies are to blame. Some people are just sick in the head. In our era of irresponsibility, of course it’s logical to site fault on violent content in film. The first test for movie audience’s tolerance for graphic violence will be in a few weeks when the machine gun heavy “Expendables 2” opens in theaters. Will it be a hit or will audiences not yet be ready? Regardless, Hollywood should do its part to regulate the crowds in the auditorium and not the content on the screen.