RYAN SCOTT OTTNEY
PDT Staff Writer
A deadly midnight shooting at a movie theatre in Colorado has left many stunned and frightened. Local theater owners in Portsmouth and Wheelersburg this weekend said they are taking a stronger look at their own security.
According to reports, James Holmes, 24, of Denver, began firing his gun and throwing gas into a crowd Friday morning during a midnight premiere showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” at a theater in Aurora, Colo. At least 12 people were killed and nearly 60 injured. Holmes was arrested outside the theater on Friday. The incident was the worst mass shooting in the United States since Nov. 5, 2009, when a single gunman killed 13 and injured 29 others at Foot Hood military base in Texas.
Theaters in Portsmouth and Wheelersburg also had midnight premieres of the new Batman movie Friday morning. They said it was one of the largest turnouts they’ve had this year, and thankfully it was without harm. Now they too are asking — could it happen here?
“My thoughts go out to the people involved and to the dead. It could happen anywhere. People nowadays can just walk into anywhere. It’s not just theaters,” said Portsmouth 8 Cinema General Manager Tom Euton. “It could happen at (any local business). The issue is a problem all across the board. You’re just as safe here as you are anywhere.”
He said theater employees are paying more attention to customers now when they come through the door, and watching the emergency exits more closely. There is only one public entrance and exit to the theater, and employees are keeping an eye on activity in the parking lot.
Euton was concerned that the incident would scare away customers for a while, but that has not been the case. He said 500 people showed up for the midnight opening of “The Dark Knight Rises” on Friday, and 600 more came out on Friday to catch one of the seven daily showings.
At the Wheelersburg Cinema, owner Tim Shively said he was worried about public reaction also, but so far he said customers realize what happened in Colorado was an isolated incident.
“They’re not really saying a whole lot about it. What I’ve heard is more or less what a tragedy it was out there and glad nothing like that happens here. We don’t really have people that dress-up in costume here, or anything like that,” Shively said.
He already was in the middle of updating his security measures, including new cameras in the theater and parking lot. He said his audiences have all been well-behaved. They already don’t allow large bags through the door, and if any of their emergency fire doors were opened it would immediately sound an alarm.
“We don’t have people obsessing over that one incident. They’re just here to see a movie, and they know they are going to be pretty safe when they go in,” Shively said.
Ryan Scott Ottney can be reached at 740-353-3101, ext. 235, or firstname.lastname@example.org.