The movie theater has historically been a place of mindless escape where one can exchange everyday reality for a dramatic get-away complete with a bucket of buttery pop corn. Lately, it’s not as enjoyable. I’ve been wondering how many other folks feel a little anxious, since James Holmes made history killing 12 people during a shooting rampage in a Colorado theater in 2012. During a midnight viewing of a Batman movie, Holmes opened fire on the defenseless patrons injuring 70 others. Recently, the verdict of life in prison without parole for the infamous shooter was handed down by a jury that failed to agree on the death penalty. There was never any question about Holmes being guilty, because he surrendered at the scene. According to an AP article by reporter Sadie Gurman, “The trial hinged instead on the question of whether a mentally ill person should be held legally and morally culpable of an act of unspeakable violence.”
Don’t feel safe now that Holmes is locked up forever, because just this past July in Lafayette, Louisiana, three people including the gunman were killed at Grand Theater. Nine others were injured during the showing of the movie, Trainwreck. Within three years, the third scene of a theater attack occurred in Antioch, Tennessee, early this August when a man armed with a pellet gun and hatchet went on a rampage. Thankfully, the gunman was the only fatality being killed by the rapidly-responding SWAT team. Three patrons were treated for pepper spray unleashed by the assailant with another victim receiving a minor hatchet injury. These incidents point to one simple truth: a movie theater like a school, mall, church, or even a military recruiting office can be an easy target for an assault. Yet let’s not permit a few violently inclined perpetrators to close down theaters. Instead let’s do what cutting-edge organizations have done and beef up security measures. First, we could bring law-enforcement and first responders to the table to glean their wisdom about the best safety scenario.
There are also some common-sense steps a theater could take. For example, patrons would have to allow theater employees to search a purse or any bag carried in. Regal Entertainment Group, the country’s largest theater chain recently announced that this is a procedure they have implemented. According to their Website: http://www.regmovies.com/Theatres/Admittance-Procedures, “Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety ”
Perceptive individuals will readily understand when they are asked to open their purse or bag for inspection. Already underpaid theater personnel don’t need patrons protesting over their rights to privacy when they are trying to ensure their safety. Metal detectors could also be installed at the entrance, and after purchasing a ticket moviegoers would step through it. If the detector beeps, be ready for a pat down just like at the airport. Some weapons can’t be detected, although anyone suspicious could be reported. Panic buttons could be installed to alert authorities about emergencies, and security personnel could be hired. Sadly, this might increase the already escalating ticket price, but keeping folks safe is worth the cost. A very informative article – https://variety.com/2015/film/news/moviegoers-half-pay-extra-theater-security-study-1201571615/ for Variety by Brent Lang, film and media reporter states that movie goers will be willing to pay more for security, but there’s a catch. “However, their appetite for shouldering the extra costs that come with installing metal detectors and armed security guards lessens as the pricetag grows higher. While 48% are fine with paying $1 or more for the additional measures, only 23% said they would pay $2 or more, according to a new survey by consumer research firm C4,” writes Lang.
Times are changing, and admittedly the world can be a randomly dangerous place. Yet it’s our job to live with awareness, not paranoia. So, let’s not stop going to the movies, let’s just be safer when we do.