By Dominic Garcia

(CBS4) – Warner Bros. new movie “Joker” has people across the country talking. It’s also caught the attention of families affected by the 2012 Aurora theater shooting.

Jessica Ghawi’s mother Sandy Phillips (credit: CBS)

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Sandy Phillips’ daughter, Jessica Ghawi, was one of 12 people killed during a midnight showing of the Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises,” also distributed by Warner Bros.

Phillips and others recently wrote a letter to Warner Bros. expressing their concerns.

Jessica Ghawi (credit: CBS)

“When I saw the trailer I was very alarmed at what I was seeing and hearing. I was very concerned that people who have been affected by gun violence were going to react to the movie with PTSD,” Phillips told CBS4’s Dominic Garcia.

Joaquin Phoenix signs the movie’s poster for a fan as he arrives for the screening of the film “Joker” on August 31, 2019 at the 76th Venice Film Festival (credit: VINCENZO PINTO/AFP/Getty Images)

The letter urges the studio to use their influence to help implement change. It asks Warner Bros. to end political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA, lobby for gun reform and instead help fund survivor and gun intervention programs.

“We did not want them to ban the movie or pull the movie, but we wanted them to have civic responsibility, corporate responsibility and to do the right thing by survivors of gun violence,” said Phillips.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as "Joker" in the new film from Warner Bros.

Joaquin Phoenix stars as “Joker” in the new film from Warner Bros. (credit: Warner Bros. Pictures)

Warner Bros. responded saying the movie is not an endorsement of violence and that they believe one of the functions of storytelling it to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. When asked about the response from Warner Bros. Phillips said, “It was not good enough, that’s all I said. And that’s all I will say until they choose to do better”.

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CBS4 reached out to the theater where the 2012 Aurora shooting happened and were told they do not plan on showing the film.

Full Letter to Warner Bros.:

Dear Ann Sarnoff,

We are the family members and friends of the 12 people killed at the Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado at a screening of The Dark Knight Rises on July 20, 2012. This tragic event, perpetrated by a socially isolated individual who felt “wronged” by society has changed the course of our lives.
As a result, we have committed ourselves to ensuring that no other family ever has to go through the absolute hell we have experienced and the pain we continue to live with. Trust us, it does not go away.

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.

We want to be clear that we support your right to free speech and free expression. But as anyone who has ever seen a comic book movie can tell you: with great power comes great responsibility. That’s why we’re calling on you to use your massive platform and influence to join us in our fight to build safer communities with fewer guns.

Over the last several weeks, large American employers from Walmart to CVS have announced that they are going to lean into gun safety. We are calling on you to be a part of the growing chorus of corporate leaders who understand that they have a social responsibility to keep us all safe.
Specifically, we’re asking you to do the following:

  • End political contributions to candidates who take money from the NRA and vote against gun
    reform. These lawmakers are literally putting your customers and employees in danger.
  • Use your political clout and leverage in Congress to actively lobby for gun reform. Keeping everyone safe should be a top corporate priority for Warner Brothers.
  • Help fund survivor funds and gun violence intervention programs to help survivors of gun violence and to reduce every-day gun violence in the communities you serve.

Since the federal government has failed to pass reforms that raise the standard for gun ownership in America, large companies like Warner Brothers have a responsibility to act. We certainly hope that you do.


Sandy Phillips
Lonnie Phillips
Tiina Coon
Theresa Hoover
Heather Dearman

Warner Bros. Response:

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“Gun violence in our society is a critical issue, and we extend our deepest sympathy to all victims and families impacted by these tragedies. Our company has a long history of donating to victims of violence, including Aurora, and in recent weeks, our parent company joined other business leaders to call on policymakers to enact bi-partisan legislation to address this epidemic. At the same time, Warner Bros. believes that one of the functions of storytelling is to provoke difficult conversations around complex issues. 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.”

Dominic Garcia