LOS ANGELES – For months gun-wielding, heart pumping, action-packed trailers for “The Dark Knight Rises” had fans primed to see the final installment in director Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy. But in the wake of last week’s midnight movie massacre, coupled with emerging evidence that the shooting suspect fashioned himself in part as Batman’s nemesis The Joker, some wonder if the movie’s run-up served as a deadly source of inspiration.
According to multiple reports, “Dark Knight” TV spots and trailers were re-edited to avoid gun-related content following the shooting. However, James Holmes not only donned Joker-like bright red hair when he allegedly embarked on his shooting spree, but was also clothed head-to-do in anti-ballistic gear with a gas mask, resembling the film’s villain Bane, featured on many “Dark Knight Rises” billboards and posters across the country.
“I would like to see movie (marketing) take a more sensitive and sensible approach," marketing expert Penny Sansevieri told FOX411’s Pop Tarts column. "But there’s the thing: violence sells, sex sells, and it will be hard and perhaps impossible to expect that the marketing world will be able to find a way around that.”
“Consider all the thousands of posters from horror movies that did not set people off – candidly how can (studios) protect against every person out there with some odd fetish? The most important thing that movie executives can do is focus their attention on making moviegoers feel safe,” Sansevieri continued. “Let’s be sensitive to marketing used in the wake of this, but moreover, let’s do what we can to make people feel safe.”
Warner Bros., the studio behind “The Dark Knight Rises,” also had to scramble to pull trailers for the forthcoming period piece “Gangster Squad,” which coincidentally contained a pivotal scene showing mobsters opening fire from behind a movie screen, sending terrified theater-goers fleeing as ammunition pours into the crowd. The trailers have also been removed from video sharing sites such as YouTube, and a Hollywood trade reports the film's September release will be delayed due to a costly reshoot ordered to replace the theater scene.
A source closely connected to the “Gangster Squad” production told us that the theater shooting scene is instrumental to the entire set-up and is unsure how it could be removed without damaging the entire storyline. “It would be a shame,” said the insider
Warner Bros. did not respond to a request for comment.
But this isn’t the only film where reality and fantasy have come too close. In March, 20th Century Fox took down trailers and promotional posters for the then-titled “Neighborhood Watch” in the aftermath of a young boy being killed by a man on a neighborhood watch. The studio later renamed the film “The Watch” and unveiled a brand new advertising campaign.
Director Bobcat Goldthwait also released the small, dark comedy “God Bless America” in May, and it too contains a pivotal scene in which the two main stars fire away in a movie theater simply after becoming disgruntled with the talking and rudeness of the teenagers during the screening. A rep for the film was not able to confirm or deny this scene would now be removed from the DVD cut of the movie, but following Aurora, the official trailer (which also contains elements of the cinema incident) has ignited debate on YouTube, with many arguing the entertainment value of the scene.
But Goldthwait insisted that despite the film’s graphic nature, it just “cannot inspire audiences to kill.”
“You can’t take healthy, normal people and inspire them to kill,” he told us during a promotional interview. “If people are inspired by this than they are probably just as inspired by a rerun of the ‘Golden Girls.’”
Dan Gainor, Vice President of Business & Culture for the Media Research hopes that Hollywood doesn’t just clean up its act just until the massacre mayhem dies down.
“The unstated reality of Hollywood is just how sadistically violent movies and TV have become. Action movies have gone from relatively bloodless violence of the old westerns to lopping off heads and blowing up bodies,” he said. “Hollywood tears down the very fabric of society, and parents all too often stand by and let it happen. Should the violence be reined in? Absolutely.”
Hollie McKay has been a FoxNews.com staff reporter since 2007. She has reported extensively from the Middle East on the rise and fall of terrorist groups such as ISIS in Iraq. Follow her on twitter at @holliesmckay