How are people reacting?
In the weeks leading up to the release of the movie, fears and anxiety surrounding it and its potential to incite violence have only grown. The US Military sent an email to service members (which you can read in full at io9) warning of a "potential risk" based on social media chatter. "Posts on social media have made reference to involuntary celibate ('incel') extremists replicating the 2012 theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado, at screenings of the Joker movie at nationwide theaters," the email read. "This presents a potential risk to DOD personnel and family members, though there are no known specific credible threats to the opening of the Joker on 4 October."
Meanwhile, according to Variety, family members of the victims of the Aurora shooting addressed a letter to Warner Bros. CEO asking the company to "use [its] massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns." The group wrote: "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." (It's worth noting that Aurora gunman James Holmes never called himself "the Joker," despite initial reports that was the case.) WB responded to the Aurora letter in a statement assuring its anti-gun violence practices and adding: "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."
Both the NYPD and LAPD reportedly increased presences around theaters in light of Joker-related worries. The departments also respectively noted that there are no "credible threats" despite the precautions. And the police presence did not keep people away: Joker made $96 million, domestically, during its opening weekend setting a new October box office record. It continued to make absurd amounts of money, and by late October it became the highest grossing R-rated movie of all time, beating Deadpool. As time went on the fears of violence started to seem a little overblown, but the obsession with Joker only grew in weird directions. The Bronx stairs where Arthur triumphantly dances became a tourist attraction, starting debates around gentrification.