Exhibs scramble security for ‘Dark Knight’

Chains worldwide disclose plans to prevent copycat attacks

Theaters across the nation and throughout the world are hastily adding security measures in the wake of the early Friday shooting in Aurora, Colo., from plainclothes officers stationed at locations around Los Angeles and New York to restricting costumes and masks at Regal and AMC venues. Some chains said they would honor refunds for patrons who chose not to redeem their pre-purchased tickets.

A combination of local authorities, venues’ in-house security teams and federal homeland security officials were brought to bear as theater chains scrambled to address the massacre that left at least 12 dead and 59 wounded.

“As a precaution against copycats and to raise the comfort levels among movie patrons … the New York City Police Department is providing coverage at theaters where the ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ is playing in the five boroughs,” NYPD Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly said in a statement.

The Los Angeles Police Dept. is making similar efforts: The force plans to send uniformed and undercover officers to some of the larger L.A. theaters, including the Arclight Hollywood.

“We’ll be in touch with the theaters, of course, but what we’re really asking is the public to come forth if you see something that’s unusual or looks dangerous,” said LAPD public information office Andrew Smith, speaking to KPCC’s “The Larry Mantle” show Friday morning. “We ask people to pick up the phone and call.”

Outside of New York and L.A., major theater chains like Regal and AMC have vowed to work with local police departments in heightening security. Cinemark, the nation’s third-largest theater chain and parent company for the incident’s Century 16 Theater, issued a statement saying it will “work closely with the Aurora Police Department and local law enforcement.”

Pacific Theaters, for instance, is in charge of its own security; however, LAPD officers are generally present at the Grove location conducting daily walk-throughs. In general, multiplex located in larger complexes operate both mall and in-theater security.

Though security officers at the Grove were unaware Friday afternoon of plans to increase security, a spokesperson for Pacific Theaters insured the chain will indeed ramp up security at that location.

Odeon and Vue Cinemas, both based in the U.K., said in separate statements that they, too, would introduce additional security at “Dark Knight” screenings.

AMC released a similar statement: “We’re reinforcing our security procedures with our theater teams, which we cannot discuss in detail for obvious, safety reasons. Local law enforcement agencies, our landlords and their and our local security teams are stepping up nationwide to ensure we provide the safest environment possible for our guests.”

As theater owners continue to react to the Denver-area tragedy, exhibbers plan to continue with business as usual for “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Two of the nation’s largest Imax locations — L.A.’s AMC Universal City Walk and Lincoln Square in New York — are continuing with the same number of showtimes this weekend. Lincoln Square, for instance, has 19 sold-out showtimes through Sunday, including 2 a.m. showtimes. City Walk is going forward with its Saturday, 3:15 a.m. screening.

Most of the weekend’s showtimes for “TDKR” already are sold out, and in the case of those moviegoers who may want a refund, several chains, including AMC and Pacific Theaters, are offering full compensation. Regal said it will ascribe to its usual refund policy upon request.

A lone gunman walked into a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora early Friday and opened fire, killing at least 12 people and wounding 59 others. Police took 24-year-old James Holmes into custody in a parking lot behind the theater but had not determined a motive for the attack.

LAPD’s Smith encouraged moviegoers to stay diligent but not to alter their plans.

“Everything that I’ve heard — and I’ve talked to folks on the national level — indicates that this was a single, isolated individual, and I hope people don’t change their plans this weekend,” Smith said.