1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

'Joker' film opens in US amid security concerns

October 5, 2019

The new film has been criticized for potentially inciting violence and bringing back memories of a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater in 2012. Police in New York, LA and Chicago said they would take precautions.

Joaquin Phoenix as Joker
Image: Imago Images/Prod.DB/Warner Bros.,BRON Studios

Police in several major US cities have said they will closely monitor theaters playing the new movie Joker, which had its US theatrical release on Friday.

Based on Batman's comic book nemesis, the movie tells the origin story of the eponymous villain. Joaquin Phoenix, who stars in the film, has been praised for what critics have called a brilliant but terrifying performance of a mentally unhinged outcast who finds fame through an act of violence.

No specific threats

The move by law enforcement comes several years after the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises was the backdrop of a mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado in July 2012 that killed 12 people and wounded 70 more.

Families of some of the victims have expressed concern about the new film. Due to the sensitive nature of the matter, Joker will not be shown in the Aurora theater.

Police in New York, Los Angeles and Chicago said that although they were not aware of any specific threats, they would deploy additional officers to locations playing the film.

Officers wearing helmets and armed with assault rifles were present outside of a screening of Joker at the New York Film Festival on Wednesday night, where audiences had their bags searched and K-9 police units were on duty.

Hollywood website Deadline reported that New York City policemen in plainclothes would also be stationed inside some movie theaters, citing an unnamed law enforcement official.

Meanwhile, movie theaters have also taken certain precautions. Costumes and face masks have been banned for moviegoers at two of the largest US theater chains, AMC and Landmark.

Box office hit

Despite the cloud that hangs over the film and discussions about whether or not it promotes violence, Joker has scored an October box office record. The film earned $13.3 million (€12.1 million) in its Thursday night opening screenings.

The film's studio, Warner Bros., has defended the film, saying it was not an endorsement of real-world violence.

"It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero," Warner Bros. said in a statement.

Director Todd Phillips has leveled criticism at those who have judged the film without seeing it first.

"I didn't imagine the level of discourse that it's reached in the world, honestly," Phillips said at the New York festival.

"I think it's OK that it sparks conversations and there are debates around it. The film is the statement and it's great to talk about it, but it's much more helpful if you've seen it," he said.

jcg/cmk (AP, Reuters)

Each evening at 1830 UTC, DW's editors send out a selection of the day's hard news and quality feature journalism. You can sign up to receive it directly here.