Local theaters respond to Aurora shooting

The tragedy didn’t affect security much, but it was on patrons’ minds.

by Tony


Friday’s theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., cast a shadow over the release of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Theaters around the country saw lower attendance and beefed up security, but theaters in Minneapolis were relatively unaffected.

According to Warner Bros., the new Batman film grossed $160.9 million over the weekend, the largest debut for a non-3-D film ever. Still, “The Dark Knight Rises” fell about $30 million short of pre-release polling predictions.

According to the Associated Press, police were stationed at theaters in New York and Los Angeles over the weekend. One multiplex in Washington, D.C., checked patrons’ bags.

Kevan Smoliak, general manager at the St. Anthony Main Theatre, said attendance over the weekend was slightly below expectations, but he was hesitant to blame the shooting. The theater still sold out both of its midnight screenings of “The Dark Knight Rises” and two shows on Friday night.

“I think it was on everybody’s mind, certainly, that came to see any movie over the weekend,” Smoliak said. “A lot of people were mentioning it, and a lot of people were saying they weren’t staying away because of it.”

St. Anthony Main doesn’t have much in the way of security, and Smoliak said it was business as usual over the weekend, although the staff was more alert.

AMC, the nation’s second-largest theater chain, with seven locations in the Twin Cities, said in a statement  it was reviewing safety measures in the wake of the shooting. On Saturday it followed up by saying they wouldn’t allow masks or costumes that “make other guests feel uncomfortable.”

Smoliak said disruptive costumes aren’t a problem at St. Anthony Main, and they’re more common in the suburbs.

“I worked for AMC for eight years over in Eden Prairie. For a midnight show there you get hundreds of people dressed up in costumes. But I think we had maybe two here,” he said.

Mao Chang, assistant manager of the Mann Highland theater in St. Paul, said audiences for “The Dark Knight Rises” were smaller than he expected over the weekend and that he received a few questions from audience members about security measures.

The staff at Highland already does multiple walkthroughs and hourly checks of each screen’s emergency exits, Chang said.

He said that Mann Theaters, which owns Highland, hasn’t implemented any new security measures, but several police officers checked in with the theater over the weekend.

The AMC Block E theater in downtown Minneapolis was quiet on Tuesday afternoon, with just one building security guard and a “Weapons not allowed” sign. Joe Widing, a Minneapolis theater-goer, said any more security than that would have been “annoying.”

“I see it more as a freak occurrence,” he said of the shooting. “I’m more likely to get run over by a car on the street than shot up in a movie theater.”

Arianna Baker-Kern of Minneapolis said she expected security to be tighter at the matineeshe attended Tuesday, but the shooting didn’t influence her decision to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”

“You don’t think of it as an environment that someone would be doing something horribly violent in,” she said. “I don’t see it happening again.”