Some moviegoers rattled by shootings, but theaters stay busy

Jul 24, 2015, 2:42 PM

BOSTON (AP) — A day after the country’s second major theater shooting in recent history, some rattled observers shunned future movie outings, but others on Friday kept lining up at box offices around the country and vowed not to be kept away by fear.

“You can’t live your life like it’s always going to happen,” said Aaron Dicks, 31, who was at an AMC theater in Roseville, Minnesota, to see “Pixels.” ”I’m not changing my routine because of a couple of crazy people.”

Most moviegoers interviewed Friday had heard of the latest shooting, in which a gunman opened fire on a theater audience in Lafayette, Louisiana, on Thursday. Police said that John Houser killed two people and wounded nine others before killing himself during a showing of “Trainwreck.”

The shooting evoked memories of the 2012 shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colorado, in which 12 people were killed and scores of others wounded.

On social media Friday, some people lamented that they no longer felt safe at movie theaters, saying they would stay away and wait to catch new releases when they’re available at home. And several theater employees across the U.S. said they were shaken up, wondering if their theater would be next.

But crowds kept coming, unfazed by the news.

Tracy Haasz said she had a long conversation about the Lafayette shooting in the morning, but said she didn’t even think of it hours later as she went to a Dallas theater with her 9-year-old son.

“It didn’t factor as we were making the decision just 15 minutes ago,” said Haasz, 52.

Outside a Boston ticket office, Richard Force considered that among thousands of U.S. movie theaters, two shootings represented only a tiny fraction.

“It’s an unacceptable percentage, but it’s very small,” said Force, 57, who was visiting from Houston with his wife, Angela. “It hasn’t changed our movie-going habits.”

Richard Hillelson, a retiree from Annandale, Virginia, traveled to downtown Washington to see the documentary “Do I Sound Gay?” at the Landmark E Street Cinema.

“I could have engaged in a lot more dangerous activity,” he said. “I could have taken a shower. I could have crossed the street against a red light. Going to a movie is just not inherently dangerous.”

Even among those who said they felt safe, though, some said that metal detectors or added guards would reassure them.

Many theaters showed no signs of beefed-up security, but police in Los Angeles added extra patrols, including the possibility of some undercover officers roaming theaters.

“There’s no direct threat to Los Angeles. But there’s always a concern,” said police Cmdr. Andrew Smith.

Major theater chains provided no response on Friday. Representatives from AMC, Regal Entertainment Group, Cinemark and Carmike Cinemas didn’t return calls.

After the Aurora shooting, the National Association of Theater Owners said it would work with law-enforcement authorities to review security procedures, but an association spokesman didn’t immediately comment Friday.

In response to that shooting, several people wounded or whose family members were killed have filed a federal lawsuit against Cinemark Holdings Inc. alleging that the company should have stepped up security for the premier showing of “Batman: A Dark Knight Rises.”

“If you think about a theater, you’re sitting in a box with a bunch of people we don’t know, in the dark,” said Christina Habas, an attorney representing victims and their families. Habas added that theater businesses “are beholden to think about those people.”

At least one industry expert said he didn’t expect the shooting to provoke a wide chilling effect among audiences.

“This was clearly an isolated incident. It was a random act of violence,” said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak.

“This makes everyone pause and think,” he added, “but I’ve never seen it in a negative way profoundly affect movie-going or even affect a specific title.”


Associated Press writers Jamie Stengle in Dallas, P. Solomon Banda in Denver, Tami Abdollah and Sandy Cohen in Los Angeles, and Brian Bakst in Roseville, Minnesota, contributed to this report.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Some moviegoers rattled by shootings, but theaters stay busy