Pete Hammond

The Colorado movie theatre shooting tragedy apparently did not dampen the want-to-see factor for The Dark Knight Rises among members of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences. At Saturday night’s official screening at the Academy’s 1012 seat Samuel Goldwyn Theatre in Beverly Hills an SRO crowd , the largest so far this year and easily one of the largest in many years , turned out to see the much-awaited conclusion to Christopher Nolan’s  Batman trilogy. The Academy crowd was so big that in a highly unusual move for one of these official weekend Acad member screenings ( which often draw far less than capacity audiences) an announcement was made that anyone not having a seat or not happy with the seat they did have could go to the lobby and they would begin filling the Academy’s adjacent Little Theatre.

In another highly unusual move for one of these regular screenings Academy President Tom Sherak was on hand and made a few remarks before asking for a moment of silence for the victims of the horrendous tragedy which occurred early Friday morning shortly after the first midnight screening began at the Aurora, Colorado theatre.

I am told this is what he said in part, “… (this was) such a thankless act of violence by a deranged individual who took the lives  of so many innocent people  and wounded so many others. The movie-going experience is one which we should be able to enjoy with others in our community in an environment that is safe. We should be able to go to our local theatres and leave our problems behind and allow the movie to transport us to a place that entertains us and captures our imagination. For now though, we understandably feel angst and uneasiness with this tragic event and question the why and the how. Let us take a moment of silence before we begin to hold those innocent people and their  families in our hearts and in our prayers. Our condolences surely go out to all of them”.

At least one observer told me reaction to the film itself was “fantastic with much applause at the end”. Although it is far from the studio’s or anybody’s mind this weekend – and should be –  Warner Bros is known to have high Oscar hopes for the film. The Academy’s switch from five to ten Best Picture nominees in 2009 is widely thought to have been instigated  by the omission of a Best Picture nod for 2008′s The Dark Knight which was nominated overall for 8 mostly below-the-line Oscars and won for Sound Editing and most notably a posthumous Best Supporting Actor statuette for Heath Ledger who played the Joker.

Official Academy screenings of The Dark Knight Rises continue Tuesday in New York and Thursday in San Francisco. London-based members saw it last Thursday.

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