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What should happen to the Colorado movie theater shooting site?

August 21, 2012|By Laura J. Nelson
  • Suggestions for what to do with the Aurora, Colo., theater where the rampage occurred include adding a memorial or converting it into a space for religious gatherings.
Suggestions for what to do with the Aurora, Colo., theater where the rampage… (Karl Gehring / Denver Post )

The city of Aurora is seeking suggestions to a question that has no easy answer. What should be done with the movie theater that was the site of one of the worst mass shootings in the nation’s history?

It has been one month since a gunman burst into the Colorado movie theater screening of the latest Batman movie, killing 12 people and wounding 58 others.

The Century 16 movieplex in Aurora, a Denver suburb, has remained closed since the July 20 massacre.

On Monday, city officials posted an online survey asking for public opinions about the fate of the site. 

“It is our hope that the entire community will participate and benefit from the citywide healing process,” officials wrote. “Many people have asked about the future of Aurora's Century 16 theater. We want to know your thoughts.”

The responses submitted through the survey website are private, but the link was publicized on the city’s Facebook page. Responses and posts on Facebook will be shared with Cinemark, the theater’s parent company.

Cinemark did not return calls seeking comment.  

The responses on Facebook ranged from angry to contemplative. Many suggested adding a memorial somewhere at the Cineplex. Some users expressed concern over theater employees losing their jobs if the theater were to close. Others worried whether a renovation would make the theater more secure.

Many comments touched on variations of a theme: whether modifying the theater would grant the gunman some kind of victory.

Suspect and former doctoral student James E. Holmes was arrested and charged with 142 counts, including 24 for first-degree murder, in connection with the rampage. 

Some in Colorado, including Gov. John Hickenlooper, have refused to use Holmes’ name, instead calling him “Suspect A.” Not using his name, residents have said, is a way to curb the perhaps inescapable notoriety that comes with such a tragedy.

“We cannot let this man win,” Facebook user Angie Montenegro wrote in a comment. “If we go to such extreme measures, he ultimately gets exactly what he was after. We must continue to stand together and welcome a new ‘dawn’ as we heal and move forward.”

Montenegro suggested remodeling theater 9, where the shooting occurred, and adjacent theater 8, adding windows and a memorial – similar, she said, to how nearby Columbine High School handled the aftermath of the 1999 shooting rampage there.

At Columbine, a committee that included victims’ families converted the cafeteria and the library above it, where many of the killings occurred, into an atrium-like open space with a ceiling mural of aspen trees and 13 clouds, The Times previously reported. A formal memorial was built in a nearby park.

Another commentator, Barbara Willis, suggested donating the theater to a nonprofit group, which could convert the space into a center for multi-faith and peace studies.

“It could be turned into a building of hope,” Willis wrote.

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laura.nelson@latimes.com

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