Regal Cinemas has started checking bags in the wake of two separate movie theater attacks this summer.
The move from the country’s largest theater chain comes amid a larger debate about safety measures that has provoked calls for metal detectors and armed guards. Most major exhibitors haven’t followed suit. While National Amusements has banned backpacks in its theaters, insiders say most chains are hesitant to institute bag checks.
On its website, Regal acknowledged that the move could inconvenience some customers but said in a statement: “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.”
Other chains didn’t expound upon their practices. A spokesman for AMC declined to comment on its security procedures, and a spokeswoman for Cinemark said the chain had no comment. A spokeswoman for Carmike said the company constantly reviews its safety procedures, but has not instituted bag checks at this time.
The move by Regal is a sign that the exhibition industry is concerned that more measures may be needed to insure that more attacks like the ones that took place this summer don’t become commonplace. The movie business was stunned after a gunman killed two patrons and himself during a showing of “Trainwreck” in Lafayette, La. last July. That attack was followed a week later by a separate incident in Nashville, Tenn., during which a hatchet- and pellet gun-wielding man unleashed pepper spray in a showing of “Mad Max: Fury Road.” He was later killed by police.
Both attacks brought back memories of a 2012 shooting at a screening of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo. that left 12 people dead. The gunman, James Holmes, was recently sentenced to life in prison for the attack.
In a recent survey by research group C4, nearly 50% of moviegoers said they would pay $1 or more extra to support additional security measures in theaters. The issue for exhibitors is that installing metal detectors or arming security personnel could cost hundreds of thousands of dollars per location and would create problems in terms of seating people in a timely fashion.