Los Angeles police to boost visibility for 'Joker' opening

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A poster for the upcoming film "Joker" is seen outside Warner Brothers Studios in Burbank, California

The Los Angeles Police Department said Friday it plans to step up its visibility around movie theaters for the opening of "Joker" because of heightened fears over the film's content.

A police spokeswoman told AFP that while there have been no credible threats in the Los Angeles area, "the department will maintain high visibility around movie theaters when (the film) opens" next week.

"We encourage everyone to go out and enjoy all of the weekend leisure activities this city has to offer, however, Angelenos should remain vigilant and always be aware of your surroundings," spokeswoman Rosie Cervantes said. "As always if you see something, say something."

The Warner Bros. film portrays its murderous outcast villain, played by Joaquin Phoenix, as a hero and some critics have suggested the movie could incite violence.

"Joker" is being released seven years after 12 people were killed in Aurora, Colorado, when a gunman opened fire during a screening of Batman film "The Dark Knight Rises."

Earlier this week, families of some of the victims published an open letter in Hollywood trade publications expressing concern about the new film.

"When we learned that Warner Bros. was releasing a movie called 'Joker' that presents the character as a protagonist with a sympathetic origin story, it gave us pause," the letter said.

- Restrictions imposed -

The film depicts the Joker as a severely depressed young man trying to build a career as a stand-up comic, but who is constantly rejected and beaten down by society until taking matters into his own -- extremely violent -- hands.

In their letter, the Aurora families noted that their real-life tragedy had been "perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt 'wronged' by society."

While the letter did not condemn the film, and expressed support for "free speech and free expression," it urged the Hollywood studio to use its platform to lobby for gun reform and to support victims.

Warner in response denied that it sought to glorify the main character of the film or that the story line in any way endorses violence.

"It is not the intention of the film, the filmmakers or the studio to hold this character up as a hero," it said in a statement.

Given the mounting controversy, the studio said Friday that it was restricting access for print and broadcast journalists on the red carpet of the "Joker" premiere this weekend at the TCL Chinese Theatre in Hollywood.

The studio said only photographers will have access to the cast and filmmakers attending the event on Saturday.

"A lot has been said about 'Joker,' and we just feel it's time for people to see the film," a studio spokesperson told AFP in explaining the decision.

Some theaters have also banned costumes, masks and face paint at screenings of "Joker" amid concerns the film could prompt a repeat of the 2012 massacre.