A California movie theater showing the film “Joker” shuttered its doors after receiving what police called a “credible threat,” officials said.
Moviegoers planning to see Joaquin Phoenix’s controversial film at the Century Huntington Beach and XD Theater in the Bella Terra shopping center Thursday instead found a closed theater surrounded by police.
Authorities did not describe the nature of the threat or how it was reported.
“We took the threat seriously, and we’re investigating,” Officer Angela Bennett, a spokeswoman for the Huntington Beach Police Department, told the Times.
Officers will remain in the area around the theater throughout the weekend, officials said.
The Huntington Beach Police Department was one of the many departments in the country that was preparing in advance to respond to any issues that arose around the release of “Joker.”
The LAPD was maintaining “high visibility around theaters” when the movie opened, while undercover officers with the NYPD planned to be out in full force during showings of the movie in and around New York’s five boroughs.
The FBI and U.S. Army also issued internal warnings about possible threats related to the movie.
“While our standard practice is to not comment on specific intelligence products, the FBI is in touch with our law enforcement and private sector partners about the online posts. As always, we encourage the public to remain vigilant and to promptly report suspicious activity to law enforcement,” the FBI said.
The movie, directed by Todd Phillips, has already proved to be polarizing, as some have praised it, while others raised concerns the film could incite violence at theaters.
In 2012, a gunman killed 12 people after opening fire during a screening of the Batman film “The Dark Knight Rises” at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.
In a letter to Warner Bros., the studio behind the film, several of the victims’ families voiced their concerns with the violence in the movie and asked for help in their gun reform advocacy work.
“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 read. “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 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.”