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Theater owners step up security after Colorado theater shooting

July 20, 2012|By Richard Verrier
  • A policeman stands outside a movie theater in New York on Friday during a showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." New York Police Commissioner Ray Kelly announced that the New York Police Department would provide police protection "as a precaution against copycats" following a shooting during a midnight screening of the film in Aurora, Colo.
A policeman stands outside a movie theater in New York on Friday during a… (Mehdi Taamallah / Getty…)

Theater owners nationwide were stunned by Friday's shooting at a Colorado cinema and said they were stepping up security for weekend screenings of "The Dark Knight Rises."

“People are shocked and appalled by what’s happened,’’ said Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Assn. of Theatre Owners. “We haven’t had any other incident like this.”

The theater trade group said it had circulated to members various security guidelines provided by the Department of Homeland Security, such as ensuring that emergency plans are up to date and staff are trained to report suspicious activity. The association said its members are “working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures.”

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“We’ve had no guidelines to go by because this kind of thing just doesn’t happen,” said Phil Zacheretti, president and chief executive of Phoenix Big Cinemas, a Knoxville, Tenn., company that operates 25 theaters in 15 states. “In my 37 years in the industry, I don’t recall a premeditated planned attack like this.”

Zacheretti said he and his staff had a meeting Friday morning to review security measures and reminded staff to report any suspicious activity and double-check that exit doors were properly secured. He said the shooting at the Aurora, Colo., theater that left 12 people dead and at least 59 injured could prompt his and other theaters to install security monitors on exit doors.

But Zacheretti and other theater owners said they had no plans to check bags and install scanners. “We’re not going to start checking everybody’s purses,’’ he said. “We’re a place of enjoyment, where people come to be entertained.”

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Patrons at some theaters, including a Regal theater in downtown Washington, D.C., did have their bags checked by cinema employees as a precaution. The New York Police Department and the Los Angeles Police Department also had officers standing outside theaters.

The shooting occurred at a Century theater owned by Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest chain.  “Cinemark is deeply saddened by this tragic incident,” James Meredith, a company executive, said in a statement. “We are grateful for the quick and professional reaction of all local law enforcement and emergency responders.”

A spokesman for AMC, the nation’s second-largest theater chain, said: “We are actively working with local law enforcement in communities throughout the nation and under the circumstances we are reaching out to all of our theaters to review our safety and security procedures. Being a safe place in the community for all our guests is a top priority at AMC and we take that responsibility very seriously.”

ArcLight Cinemas and Pacific Theatres deployed extra private security officers at theaters for weekend screenings of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and the theater chains offered refunds to any consumers who purchased advance tickets and did not wish to see the movie. AMC made a similar pledge.

Terrell Mayton, director of marketing for Carmike Cinemas, the nation’s fourth-largest circuit, said the shooting did not warrant a wholesale review of security in theaters. “We think the security procedures we have in place are effective,’’ he said. “People come to the theater to have fun; you don’t want to give the impression they are the airport.”  

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