Motivated by the amount of public concern following Friday’s mass shooting at a Colorado theater during a showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” a group of East Texas theaters is increasing security to give the public reassurance.
The group includes 4 Star Cinema in Kilgore, Plaza Cinema 3 in Henderson, Brazos Cinema 3 in Mineral Wells and Jackson Cinema 3 in Jacksonville, which are all within Foothills Entertainment.
Byron Berkley, owner and president of the company, said Foothills always has had a degree of security in the theaters on Friday and Saturday nights, such as a police officer or sheriff’s deputy.
“We’ve done that for years (on the) busiest nights of the week,” he said, adding that more teenagers are also typically at theaters on those nights.
Now, it has increased security and will have an officer in theaters on Sunday and Tuesday, the third busiest night of the week. “The Dark Knight Rises” will be the focus, but the new initiative applies to all films.
Berkley said it’s being done as a comfort measure for moviegoers.
It’s “to let the public know we are aware of the circumstances and are looking out for their safety…,” he said.
“Smaller theaters are less crowded. The theater is kind of a social gathering place (where people know each other), so there are not as big concerns as a larger place (in a large city) … but we still want customers (to have that ease).”
“We probably wouldn’t let them in the door with any package,” Berkley said.
He added, “Our staff recognizes most of the customers. If they see someone who comes in who’s not a regular, they will probably be a little more watchful.”
Berkley noted that an officer can cover all entrances and exits of the theaters easily since they are smaller and compact. Security cameras are also in theaters in case anything unusual happened.
Theaters likely experienced 10 to 15 percent less in business than it expected on Friday and Saturday, Berkley said. They also did not see the same middle school and teenage audience that they usually do on Friday.
“The real issue is going to be now over the next week or so will it come back or will we see comfort returning,” Berkley said.
“Monday was unusually slow. We’ll see what (happened Tuesday). (Tuesday) is our bargain day. Tickets are reduced prices … It’ll be interesting to see what happened.”
Although movie attendance recently declined in the theaters, with a pick up on Sunday, nothing unusual has occurred, Berkley said.
“We have had a number of our regular customers say ‘We’re glad to see you have more security.’ There have been no incidents trying to copy cat this thing,” he said.
But nationwide, at least three men accused of making threats during or after watching the new Batman movie have been arrested in separate incidents.
A Maine man was arrested when he told authorities that he was on his way to shoot a former employer a day after watching the movie, Maine state police said Monday.
Former graduate student Timothy Courtois was charged with speeding and possession of a concealed weapon.
In Southern California, a man at a Sunday afternoon showing of the film was arrested after witnesses said he made threats and alluded to the Aurora shooting when the movie didn’t start, and moviegoers in Sierra Visa, Ariz., panicked when a man who appeared intoxicated was confronted during a showing of the movie. Off-duty Border Patrol agents tackled Michael William Borboa, 27, who had a backpack with him, according to The Arizona Daily Star. Authorities said it contained an empty alcohol container and a half-empty moonshine bottle.
Borboa was arrested on suspicion of disorderly conduct, and threatening and intimidating.
The arrests come days after James Holmes, 24, allegedly opened fire in a theater in a Denver suburb, killing 12 people and injuring 58.
In the aftermath of the mass shooting, Berkley, who sits on the executive board for the National Association of Theater Owners, said the industry is working closely with people in Colorado to try to help the victims.
“The industry is really getting behind this and trying to help out,” he said. “The industry is very concerned by this event and as a whole we will be doing everything we possibly can to ensure that this type of thing does not happen again anywhere. Unfortunately, in the society we live in today, you can’t always control (these things), but as an industry, we’re taking some very specific precautions.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.