It didn’t take long after the recent shootings in an Aurora Colorado movie theater for Warner Bros. to realize that they had a problem on their hands with Gangster Squad. Seeing as their upcoming crime drama—which is currently set for a September 7 release—so prominently features a scene where a bunch of machine gun wielding gangsters open fire on a theater full of moviegoers, a decision about the potentially offensive scene needed to be made. Yes, it’s unfortunate that a real life tragedy can lead to self-censorship when it comes to art, but good taste is good taste.
The trailers for the film were immediately pulled after news of the shooting broke, and the studio’s initial plan was to rush some re-writes and re-shoots to have the theater scene replaced with something else before Gangster Squad’s release. That was the initial plan. Now Variety is reporting that making major changes to a film when there are only six weeks until its scheduled release might not be a possibility.
Reportedly, a plan to push the film back to sometime next year is now being considered. The shadowy studio sources who keep talking to the trades all seem to be in agreement that the scene set in the theater is pretty pivotal, and coming up with an alternate scenario that makes as much sense in the context of the rest of the film might be easier said than done. Pushing back the film’s release would assure that care could be taken with any changes made, so filmgoers don’t end up paying for a shoddy product.
And still, much like the original idea of reshooting the scene did, delaying the film’s release brings up an interesting ethics question. If Gangster Squad does indeed get pushed back to a 2013 release, will they then even have to change anything in the film? Once six months have passed and the wound of this terrible tragedy has begun to heal, will anyone even care if there’s a theater shooting in some dumb gangster movie? Or, regardless of the time passed, does the studio still have an obligation to rework this eerily familiar scene, out of respect for the families of the victims? There don’t appear to be any easy answers, as certainly everyone is going to have their own views on these matters. It goes without saying that everyone’s sympathies are primarily with the families of the victims of the Aurora shooting, but in the background of this whole situation Warner Bros. have found themselves in an unenviable position as well.