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Could Colorado theater massacre hurt 'The Dark Knight Rises' at the box office?

 

It has the potential to be one of the biggest summer blockbuster weekend openings of all time, with over 2,000 show times across the country selling out in advance. But will those guaranteed tickets sales be a true reflection of who actually turns up to see “The Dark Knight Rises” in the aftermath of the Colorado theater massacre?

“'Dark Knight' has the huge advantage that it had already generated a massive amount of pre-sales in tickets. All IMAX theaters were already sold out for the opening shows,” Stephen Galloway, The Hollywood Reporter’s executive features editor, told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. “This means even if a few people don’t show up, the box office numbers will still be superb."

Thelma Adams, Yahoo! Movies contributing editor, concurred that Christopher Nolan’s latest film “is going to be huge,” but she cautioned it might not be quite as huge as initially expected.

“I don’t think it will particularly slow down, but it may not hit that $180 million or $200 million the first weekend,” she said.

Several police departments told FoxNews.com that they are in touch with theaters should they need additional security, and for the most part, fans we talked to said they are still planning on going.

“I actually plan on watching the film today. It's terrible what happened but you can't cease to live your life out of fear of what may happen,” said Joey Garcia of Texas, while another Chicago moviegoer told FoxNews.com that they would also be using their "Batman" tickets.

And although early indications Friday have shown that moviegoers are still packing into theaters, the Colorado massacre, where at least 12 were killed and scores wounded by a lone gunman, could bring security changes in the long term.

“As a critic, when I saw ‘The Dark Knight’ last week, I had someone look through my bag and was wanded,” Adams continued. “I don’t see why they can’t do that at every theater. That seems completely reasonable to me.”

Nolan issued a statement Friday evening to TMZ on belahf of the movie's cast and crew.

"The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me," he said. "Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

The tragedy could also lead to increased ticket prices, experts say.

“Americans are aware there are crazy, disturbed people out there, they realize they could strike anywhere. I doubt this will rattle movie goers on any large scale,” Galloway explained. “But it will cause theater owners to debate stepping up security – which could in turn impact ticket prices, and that in turn could affect movie theater stock.”

In response to the shooting rampage, The National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement Friday that its members are now "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."

Deadline.com reported Friday that theater stocks had indeed taken a hit in the wake of the shootings, with Cinemark (which owns the theater where the incident occurred) down to 3.2 percent, the nation’s largest chain Regal dropping 3.3 percent, and IMAX falling 1.8 percent. 

The tragedy also begs the question of whether it is likely to have a lasting, negative impact on the entire Batman franchise.

“While this is a tragic incident, Batman is eternal and its box office performance won’t be affected by the shooting. While it is interesting that marketers in Finland have temporarily suspended marketing the movie, I would venture in a few days all will be back to normal,” said PR expert Ronn Torossian, CEO of New York firm 5WPR. “Long term, people won’t associate this shooting with Batman.”

Warner Bros. released a statement Friday declaring that the studio “and the filmmakers are deeply saddened to learn about this shocking incident.” They went on to extend “sincere sympathies to the families and loved ones of the victims at this tragic time."

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