Originally Published: February 18, 2017 6:01 a.m.
It’s been nearly five years since a gunman, dressed in tactical clothing, set off tear gas grenades and shot into the audience of a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado. Twelve people were killed and about 70 others were injured.
Since then, there have been several other movie theater attacks throughout the country, including a mass shooting at a Louisiana theater in July 2015, and a hatchet attack at a Tennessee movie theater a month later.
Theater owners often prefer not to speak about theater security, though they all have safety protocols in place in case an emergency were to occur.
An off-duty employee of Prescott Picture Show, a movie theater located in the Frontier Village Center, was willing to speak about some of those protocols.
“If there is an active shooter, we’ve been trained on how to clear the theatres and make sure to get as many people out as soon as possible, and call police right away,” the employee said.
Though he wasn’t working for a theater at the time of the Aurora shooting, he said he’s heard that such training has become more common in the theater industry since the incident.
He added some theaters have been considering the possibility of installing metal detectors at theater entrances.
Owners of Prescott-area theaters were not so willing to talk about the matter. Prescott Picture Show owners declined to comment about security measures and Harkins Theatres did not return phone calls and emails seeking comments.
Theater owners may not like to talk about it, but there are some citizens who keep their and their loved ones’ safety in mind when they go to the movies.
“I always look to see exactly where the exits are,” said moviegoer Jan Lovejoy. “I do that wherever I go, because I think the world is changing.”
Lovejoy’s husband, Ron Cooper, said he often carries a concealed firearm, especially when he is going anywhere there might be a crowd, such as a movie theater.
“A good part of the adult males in Prescott have a concealed carry permit,” Cooper said.
Depending on the theater, this could prevent him from being allowed into the establishment to see a movie.
For instance, Prescott Picture Show does not allow firearms in its theaters. Management said this is because they serve alcohol on the premises. The theater also does bag checks, a policy that other theaters, such as those owned by Regal Entertainment Group, have adopted in recent years as well.
Not everyone is as wary as Lovejoy and Cooper when it comes to their safety in public.
“I guess we feel comfortably safe in Prescott,” said moviegoer Cindy Templeton. “Maybe in a bigger city it would be more of a concern.”
For young men like Youssef Mohaneed and Julian Ko, the Aurora shooting is a distant memory. “When it happened, I’m pretty sure everybody felt unsafe in a theater,” Mohaneed said. “I don’t think it’s a big deal anymore.”
“It used to be (a big deal), but now people are just kind of used to it,” Ko added. “So much time has gone by.”
The Daily Courier will continue to ask theater owners and management for details on the measures they take to keep moviegoers protected, as well as their recommendations about what patrons can do to make going to the movies safe.
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