After Columbine, schools put automated locks on their doors…all of them. After 9/11, we have the TSA to grope us up at the airport. Not all security measures started in the wake terror are stupid, they are necessary and may keep us out of harms way but some are nothing more than knee-jerk reactions based on emotions of the moment. One thing is sure, fear creates stupid public policy. Across the country, theaters are posting signs that costumes are not allowed inside their buildings. Score 1 for James Holmes.
The NYPD stationed officers at city theaters showing “The Dark Knight Rises” on Thursday as some Batman fans admitted the shooting at a Colorado cinema had left them unnerved. “It was in the back of my head,” said Jim Thalman, 38, an actor who saw the film at the Regal Cinema in Union Square just hours after a gunman killed 12 people at a midnight screening of the movie outside of Denver. “When a guy came in with a bag, I thought if he puts a mask on, I was going to crack him.” But his pal, Scott Nawrocki, 42, said he wasn’t worried about a replay of the ambush in Aurora. And why should he be worried, seriously, the cops say James H0lmes acted alone…a lone wolf…if you will.
“I’m so New York,” the Brooklynite said. “I’m jaded.” Two uniformed officers stood in the lobby of the Manhattan movie house. A total of 40 theaters around the five boroughs will getting extra police protection, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “We’re concerned that someone, perhaps seeking notoriety, will attempt to do something similar,” Kelly said adding that the security boost was meant “to address the potential of a copycat event and to reassure moviegoers, particularly parents. “We know a lot of young people are going to see this movie,” he said. “These are judgments that we have to make. We think it’s appropriate at this time.”
Kelly said most of the theaters would have at least two cops and a vehicle posted in front. At the AMC Empire 25 theater on W. 42nd St., Heidi Harding, 32, said she was “not scared” as she waited on line to purchase tickets for an evening showing. “You don’t have any control over these types of situations,” said the Bronx assistant teacher. “You just have to live your life. This is just one crazy individual.” Harding is right. Exactly right. Two cops standing in a lobby are not going to stop someone from doing something stupid. Here’s my point. If you want to make movie going a more secure environment…then make it more secure. Use metal detectors or wands on people coming inside.
Movie theaters across the country are hiring extra off-duty police officers and security guards in the wake of the Colorado shooting. It’s a logical and maybe reassuring step, but it is unclear whether guards will remain part of the routine after news coverage of the killings fades. Two things are clear, security experts say: One, movie theaters should be made more secure, permanently. And two, theaters may not be able to afford it. So, what we have now is smoke and mirrors. “If not for popcorn, they would all be out of business,” said Howard Levinson, a security consultant in Massachusetts who has worked extensively with movie theaters. “They make all of their money from concessions, and it’s not the lucrative business it was before. It would be almost economically impossible to have a higher security standard. Without the general public paying as much as 50 percent more for a ticket, I don’t see how a theater could stay open.”Would moviegoers pay another $5, in the age of Netflix and Hulu Plus? It’s a question that theater owners would rather not test. Even if security at theaters was upped drastically, Levinson said it probably wouldn’t stop someone such as the perpetrator of Friday’s mass shootings. James Eagan Holmes, a 24-year-old graduate-school dropout, is being held by Aurora police in the shootings. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates said in a Friday news conference that there were no on-duty cops providing security for the midnight show. But other details have not been released, so it’s not yet known whether theater security guards were on duty, whether an employee was in the projection booth when the shootings began, or whether any alarms sounded when a man propped open an exit door, stepped outside, put on protective armor, returned to the theater and began firing.
Levinson said the extra security, the employee in the projection booth and the alarm should have been in place. Some theaters have alarms attached to doors in the theaters; the alarms don’t ring through the theater but instead alert employees that a door has been opened. In the past, the alarms were used primarily to thwart people from letting in friends without paying. Tommy Burns, a Nevada security consultant, said it is important to remember that movie theaters have been remarkably safe places, given the volume of people packed into them, the pre-movie drinking and the violence on the screens. “You rarely have an incident. So as a theater operator, you have a concern for safety, but where do you draw the line?” Burns asked. Prior to Friday, he said, “nobody really saw the need” to swaddle movie theaters in security.
In the short term, armed police officers will be much more common at theaters, Burns said. But eventually they will vanish as closed-circuit televisions and security guards become the norm, he said. However security manifests in movie theaters, for now it will be a big topic of discussion among theater owners. “Where do you balance profitability with responsibility? That’s what it is — balance,” said Philip Jan Rothstein, the president of Rothstein Associates, a crisis-management consultancy in Connecticut. “Do you have a security guard, a camera, an alarm at every exit? Do you have a surveillance system? What kinds of controls are justifiable? What controls are realistic? “It’s a trade-off between privacy and comfort.” And it should be based on common sense. Schools and airports should have been secured decades ago but smoke and mirrors do little other than add temporary comfort to temporary concerns about personal safety.
The bottom line is be vigilant and aware wherever you go. A nut-job could have walked into a restaurant or any public venue and done the same thing. Living in fear is not the answer. Living smart is. If you are going to allow costumes for a movie premier, which sounds like fun, then have some security in place and NO I am not suggesting this theater in Colorado was at fault, it’s simply something we all need to be aware of.