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Sandy Hook shooting prompts Hollywood to cancel movie premieres

Published: Saturday, Aug. 1 2015 10:23 p.m. MDT

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Studios have canceled the premiere screenings of at least three major movies after 28 people died by gunfire Friday at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.

Tom Cruises's action film "Jack Reacher" and the Billy Crystal and Bette Midler comedy "Parental Guidance" were scheduled to premiere Saturday night, the day after the shootings. Both premieres were canceled.

Then on Monday, the Weinstein Company canceled the premiere of Leonardo DiCaprio's "Django Unchained," which had been scheduled for Tuesday, according to Entertainment Tonight.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and in this time of national mourning we have decided to forgo our scheduled event," a spokesperson for the Weinstein Company said.

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A private screening of DiCaprio's gunslinger movie was held for family and friends Tuesday night. The film opens in theaters on Christmas. A Contra Costa Times review said the movie, about a slave promised freedom if he helps a bounty hunter track down DiCaprio's character, will divide audiences with its "blood-spurting shootouts."

"The excessively violent, persistently provocative and daringly entertaining epic never shies away from the sensational," reviewer Randy Myers wrote.

In Cruise's new movie, which hits theaters Friday, the title character of "Reacher" is a former military member. In the opening scene, a different character, a sniper, shoots five people dead in a public place, according to The Guardian.

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Paramount Pictures postponed the premiere of "Reacher," the studio said in a statement released Friday night, the same day as the shootings, "due to the terrible tragedy in Newtown, Conn., and out of honor and respect for the families of the victims whose lives were senselessly taken."

"Our hearts go out to all those who lost loved ones," the statement added.

A fundraiser screening of the movie at Lincoln Center in New York City on Monday was also postponed, with no new date announced, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Promotional shots for the film have also been altered since the shooting. One scene deleted from the trailers was that "of Cruise's character firing off a semiautomatic weapon," said The Hollywood Report.

The decisions raise "the question of why we’re so gung-ho to watch movies like 'Jack Reacher' in the first place," Salon's Andrew O'Hehir wrote Tuesday.

O'Hehir explored what it means about Americans that so many seek out escapist movies with "scenes of exaggerated violence as aspects of a thrill ride," and that the coincidental juxtaposition of the massacre and the studio's decisions about these movies expose "appetites we would rather not think about right now.

"They exist because we eat them up and demand more, and it is undeniable that media violence has grown more graphic and intense even as violent crime has consistently declined," O'Hehir wrote. "Maybe our chagrined reaction to 'Jack Reacher' is actually a sign of psychological health: We understand the difference between real acts of spectacular violence and symbolic ones, but we can’t understand why we abhor the first but crave the second."

Discovery Channel also canceled "American Guns" after the shootings, though no production or filming for a third season had taken place yet. Discovery has not linked the cancellation to the shooting, though it came after scrutiny of the show.

Pop singer Ke$ha's song, "Die Young," has also faced repercussions after the elementary school shooting. The song, at the No. 3 spot on the radio charts the day of the shooting, has gone from 167 million nationwide listeners to 98.5 million as of Tuesday, reported New York Daily News. Radio stations began pulling the song from their playlists after the tragedy took place Friday morning.

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company