‘Joker’ showings canceled, theater closed over ‘credible threat,’ California cops say

A Southern California movie theater closed entirely and canceled two showings of the new “Joker” movie Thursday following what police described as a credible threat.

The threat to the Century Theater at the Bella Terra shopping center in Huntington Beach was reported to local police on Wednesday, the department said in a Facebook post Friday.

Huntington Beach police said the threat related to the opening of the “Joker” movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, which hits theaters across the country this weekend.

The threat “was credible enough to provide a uniformed presence at the theater,” police said, adding that during the investigation theater managers “determined they would cancel the final two showings of the movie and close the theater out of an abundance of caution.”

Police said that the theater could safely reopen on Friday.

“The Huntington Beach Police Department will provide patrols at Century Theater for the rest of this weekend,” police said. “We are working in conjunction with the theater’s management as well as mall security to provide a safe environment to the public.”

But it’s not just Southern California dealing with “Joker”-related threats: The new film has police departments across the country on alert, including in New York City, according to the Washington Post. The newspaper reports that as movie promotions began, “Warner Bros. faced protests from the families of mass-shooting victims, pundit criticism that the film could inspire violence, a warning from a respected theater chain and even comments from its director that he was fueled by resentment for liberal Hollywood.”

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ABC News reported Thursday that the “FBI has received tips of threatening posts on social media calling for ‘unspecific mass shootings’ linked to the release of the new psychological thriller.”

Huntington Beach movie-goers with 10:30 p.m. tickets to the new film were sent home, KABC reported, adding that the movie nonetheless made $13 million on its opening night.

“As we were walking in, we see all the police and stuff, it’s kinda weird,” said theatergoer Stephanie Theroux, according to the TV station. “We don’t know specifically what it was, we just know something’s going on.”

Huntington Beach police said they’re still looking into the threat.

“We took the threat seriously, and we’re investigating,” Officer Angela Bennett said, according to the Los Angeles Times.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.