Horrific Shootings At The Dark Knight Rises Midnight Screening In Aurora, Denver: Paris Premiere Cancelled, Opening Weekend Overshadowed

Box office figures for midnight screenings of The Dark Knight Rises may have shattered previous heights reached by Marvel’s The Avengers earlier this summer, but as the world reels in the wake of the shock mass shootings in Aurora, Denver, Colorado, an undeniable shadow has been cast over the film’s opening weekend.

According to Deadline, the Warner Bros-Legendary Pictures-Christopher Nolan trilogy finale starring Christian Bale, Tom Brady, Michael Caine and Anne Hathaway grossed $30.6 million from Thursday’s midnight to Friday morning showings – easily surpassing the $ 18.4 million generated by Marvel’s The Avengers midnight screenings.

Last night fans braved prohibitive weather conditions, some queuing for hours in heavy rain in some parts of North America and stifling heat elsewhere across the 3,700 domestic locations showing the movie.

Before the news of the horrific shootings broke, reaction to industry trackings of the screenings of the Gotham City epic was ebullient. By 6 pm Thursday, Deadline’s Nikki Finke reported a Warner Bros executive as saying,

The Dark Knight Rises is tearing up the box office at midnight. It should pass Marvel’s The Avengers‘ $18.7M as the largest superhero midnight show of all time.” [Note: The Avengers currently holds the domestic record, $207.4 million, for the largest opening weekend.]

Throughout the midnight showings The Dark Knight Rises roll out continued to trend the biggest online ticket sales in Fandango’s 12-year history, outpacing The Avenger’s ticket sales in equivalent sales cycles.

A Fandango exec told Deadline: “Today’s ticket sales are relentless, just like the action in the movie.”

And an unnamed Warner Bros executive was quoted by Finke saying,

“The West Coast is still selling tickets with some theatres adding 3 AM shows. This is [- ] huge!”

As the stats grew through Thursday into Friday, pre-sales of $30 million and an international haul of $ 10.4 million from 9 countries around the world meant The Dark Knight Rises had already banked $71 million worldwide by Friday morning.

A man reacts after arriving at Children's Hospital in Aurora

But as the world catches up on the still frankly, unbelievable news that a lone gunman, James Holmes, a former student at University of Colorado Denver School of Medicine [he withdrew in June], opened fire on the audience at Aurora’s Century 16 movie theater at a midnight screening of TDKR, killing 12 people including children and injuring nearly 60 – movie industry buoyancy about TDKR’s opening weekend has undoubtedly been marred by the tragedy.

Now in Police custody, across-the-board news reports say Holmes, 24, stood at the front of the theater wearing a gas mask and black military-esque garb before indiscriminately firing into the crowd at around 12:30-12:39 am.

Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates gave a statement to reporters this morning,

“Approximately at 12.30 this morning a gunman appeared at the front of one of the theatres in the Century 16 theatre,” he said. “Witnesses tell us that he released some sort of canister. They heard a hissing sound and a gas emerged and then we know that the gunman opened fire.”

Without revealing details of where Holmes lived, Oates said Holmes had admitted that there were “possible explosives in his residence. We are dealing with that potential threat,” said the Police chief.

Indescribable grief

Reutersreported subsequent searches of Holmes’ apartment by Aurora police and the FBI turned up explosives. They quote Oates as saying those explosives were “very sophisticated” and that the police could be at the scene for “hours or days.”

Responding to the crisis, President Obama cancelled his scheduled appointments, releasing this White House statement.

“Michelle and I are shocked and saddened by the horrific and tragic shooting in Colorado,” said Obama. He continued,

“My administration will do everything that we can to support the people of Aurora in this extraordinarily difficult time. We are committed to bringing whoever was responsible to justice, ensuring the safety of our people, and caring for those who have been wounded.”

“As we do when confronted by moments of darkness and challenge, we must now come together as one American family. All of us must have the people of Aurora in our thoughts and prayers as they confront the loss of family, friends, and neighbors, and we must stand together with them in the challenging hours and days to come.”

Republican Presidential candidate Mitt Romney issued a similarly toned statement.

The Associated Press has reported that the planned Paris premiere of TDKR has now been cancelled and workers at the Champs-Elysees were seen pulling down red carpet fixtures.

Victims from the attack are being treated at various medical centers in Denver. The Denver Health Center treated seven victims, while six patients were treated at the Children’s Hospital Colorado including a six-year-old child.

Twelve victims were admitted to the Medical Center of Aurora. Three of these treated for chemical exposure resulting from the tear gas used by Holmes during the attack.

The Associated Press also reports a further 21 casualties were taken to the University of Colorado hospital with many treated for gunshot wounds.

Brittany Diemer showed the ticket stub for the Dark Knight Rises Friday morning. She was in the theatre when a gunmen opened fire on moviegoers. Aurora Police responded to the Century 16 movie theatre early Friday morning, July 20, 2012.

While international and domestic reaction continues to pour in, Aurora residents have been advised to report to the local Gateway High School to check for news about their loved ones.

A statement from the Aurora police department early this morning stated,

“The Police Department can confirm that 12 persons are deceased, with the bodies of 10 victims still at the crime scene inside the theater. At least two more victims died at area hospitals.”

The attack is being talked about as one the worst mass shooting incidents in the US since 2007, when Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and himself on the Virginia Tech campus. Chilling symmetries are also being made about the fact that the Aurora cinema is a mere 20 miles from Columbine High school, where 13 people died after two students opened fire in 1999.

A “dark knight prayer vigil” will be held at Aurora’s municipal building at 7 pm tonight [local time] and President Obama has released a further statement from Fort Myers, Florida saying,

“There are going to be other days for politics, this is a day for prayer and reflection. We may never understand what leads anybody to terrorize their fellow human beings like this.”

New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly has also released a statement that officers will be stationed at screenings of The Dark Knight Rises across the city “as a precaution against copycats.”

While Holmes’ family have issued a statement of condolence, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper also released a statement saying,

“The attack is not only an act of extreme violence, it is also an act of depravity.”

As news of this morning’s attack spreads around the world and debates about the right to bear arms are spotlighted once more, it’s likely the last thing on most reasonable people’s minds will be the negative fall-out today’s outrage could have on The Dark Knight Rises’ opening weekend.