Landmark Theaters is banning customers from wearing masks or costumes as they attend screenings of Joker when it opens next week amid concerns that the origin story of the Batman villain is too sympathetic and may be a target for violence by so-called incels.
The movie chain, which operates more than 50 theaters across the country, told Reuters the ban would also cover painted faces much like the titular character, played by Joaquin Phoenix, wears in the movie.
"I want customers to be comfortable in their surroundings," Landmark CEO Ted Mundorff told the Hollywood Reporter on Thursday.
Earlier this week, AMC, the country's largest movie chain, reminded patrons that it has banned masks, face painting, or face-coverings since 2012 following the deadly mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at a screening of the Batman film The Dark Knight Rises.
A Regal Cinemas spokesperson also said they were working with an industry group to remain in touch with law enforcement to monitor any potential threats. However, the Regal spokesperson also said, they "do not believe the content or the existence of any movie is a cause or a signal for violence.”
Los Angeles police told Variety they would increase police presence at theaters, citing "public concerns and the historical significance associated with the premiere of Joker,” but made clear there had been no credible threats to date.
Gizmodo reported Tuesday that the US Army had warned service members about the potential for a mass shooting at a Joker screening, citing an FBI bulletin warning of extremist posts online from incels, or involuntary celibates, who idolize the bullied lead character.
Families of the Aurora victims this week called on Joker studio Warner Bros. to take action against gun violence, saying that when they discovered that the titular character would be given "a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause."
A Warner Bros. spokesperson subsequently told BuzzFeed News, "Make no mistake: neither the fictional character Joker, nor the film, is an endorsement of real-world violence of any kind. It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero."
Joker has been praised by critics and won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival.
Director Todd Phillips told the Wrap on Wednesday that he did not make the film to glorify violence or "to push buttons."
He also suggested he believed much of the concern or outrage about the film had been manufactured by the "far left."
“I think it’s because outrage is a commodity. I think it’s something that has been a commodity for a while,” he said. “What’s outstanding to me in this discourse in this movie is how easily the far left can sound like the far right when it suits their agenda. It’s really been eye-opening for me.”