July 25, 2012
Warner Bros. Takes Action to Stave Off Bad "Batman" PR: Studio Makes "Substantial" Donation to Victim-Aiding Aurora Relief Fund, and Pulls Trailer for Its Next Uber-Violent Blockbuster — PR Experts Offer More Suggestions For Outreach
Despite the uncanny association of the circumstances, there seems to be very little of the blame-it-on-Hollywood backlash in the wake of the Colorado theater massacre that so often occurs when people struggle to make sense of a senseless, violent act. Many agree that you simply can't hold the art form itself responsible — but still, the film industry seems to recognize the potential for scrutiny and has shown sensitivity in response to the tragedy, if not some defensiveness. After all, the "suspect" James Holmes' appearance in court Monday with his hair dyed bright orange like a comic book character's, combined with the revelations of his links to the iconic Batman character The Joker, suggests that Hollywood has been saddled with an unprecedented PR crisis. Warner Bros., the studio that released the much-anticipated final piece in the Batman trilogy, is reportedly donating money to the Aurora Relief Fund, giving a very substantial, yet undisclosed donation, to the victims and their families. PR pros said Warner's heavy involvement in the healing process in the tragedy's aftermath is warranted — Jonathan Bernstein, president of Bernstein Crisis Management, thinks its "appropriate for Warner Brothers and, perhaps, some of the stars of 'Dark Knight Rising,' to contribute to the Aurora Relief Fund that can be used to provide any aid required by victims and their loved ones," he said, Fox News reports. Daniel Keeney, president of DPK Public Relations and PR crisis expert, agrees: "There realistically is no way in the foreseeable future to extricate the Batman brand from this horrific tragedy," he said. "So instead of hoping to get beyond this, the studio needs to accept that this event is a part of this movie from this point forward. A simple way to acknowledge this and recognize as well as honor the victims is to add a slide to the beginning of the movie along with a moment of silence prior to the start of the film," he added, according to the Fox report. Thinking ahead, Warner Bros. has pulled a trailer for its upcoming film "Gangster Squad," which was playing in theaters before "The Dark Knight Rises." The promo for the 1940s period film features a climactic scene in which mobsters fire automatic weapons into a movie theater audience from behind the screen, an AP news release reports.
Warner's involvement in the relief efforts followed a string of statements of remorse from the studio, as well as the film's producers, director and principal actors. "The movie theater is my home. The idea that someone could violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearable savage way is devastating to me," director Christopher Nolan said. "My heart aches and breaks for the lives taken and altered by this unfathomably senseless act. I am at a loss for words how to express my sorrow. My thoughts and prayers are with the victims and their families," co-star Anne Hathaway added. "Words cannot express the horror that I feel. I cannot begin to truly understand the pain and grief of the victims and their loved ones, but my heart goes out to them," said "Dark Night" star Christian Bale, Fox News reports.
Keeney says Warner Bros. needs to continue to look ahead. "They will need to be reflective on lingering sensitivities about violence in their movies and they may want to consider delaying the release dates of certain films that include violence out of deference for the victims of the Colorado," he said. "The best media strategy for Hollywood firms is to make compassion the primary component of their response, as Warner Bros. have been. This movie house has acted far more compassionately than many corporations do during crises," he added, reports Fox News' Diana Falzone.