Aurora 'Dark Knight' Shooting: How Are Independent Theaters Dealing With The Aftermath?

Jeff Logan went to sleep Thursday looking forward to a blockbuster weekend for his independent movie theater chain after a successful advanced midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."

When he woke up, he heard about the shooting in Aurora.

"I was, as everyone, shocked and saddened that this would happen and thought of the victims and their families and friends," Logan said. "And after there were those human feelings, I started thinking operationally about what we would do, what we could do."

At a midnight showing Friday of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colo., a gunman, identified by police as 24-year-old James Holmes, opened fire killing 12 people and wounding 59.

Logan, the owner of Logan Luxury Theaters Corp., which includes three theaters and one drive-in in South Dakota won't implement TSA-level security in response to the shootings, he said. "I think it's premature to say we're going to need metal detectors, pat-downs or policemen required at every theater. I think it would be an overreaction to a horrible, tragic event. We are not at that point, and I don't think this justifies that kind of response."

In Logan's theaters, there are alarms on all the exit doors, primarily to prevent people sneaking in for a free movie. Plus, Logan points out, "this shooter snuck in the exit door, so he would have bypassed a metal detector anyway."

Besides relying on the existing alarms, Logan contacted the local police department Friday to clarify procedures and discuss security plans. "We're going to rely primarily on local law enforcement and coordinate with them, and make sure we have good communication," he said.

The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents hundreds of independent theater owners as well as the large cinema chains, expressed its gratitude to police and law enforcement personnel in Colorado.. "Guest safety is, and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. NATO members are working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures," it said in a statement.

Patrick Corcoran, spokesperson for NATO, said the organization distributed a Department of Homeland Security emergency-plan checklist to members on Friday, and told The Huffington Post, "As far as we know, it's going to be up to each company to implement procedures as they think best and in consultation with their local law enforcement and own security officers to make decisions tailored to them."

Because security decisions are up to individual owners, "we don’t anticipate any disparate effects on independent theaters," said Corcoran, adding that he had not heard concerns from NATO's members about increased expenses.

Though Logan does not anticipate his business being affected by increased costs of security, he said those who incur greater security costs, will probably "have to pass those costs along, and raising prices always hurts."

"It's a tough business environment anyway, with increased competition from megaplexes and all the other media out there, plus the economy. Obviously, any increased costs are going to be hard on anyone, and perhaps even more on a small operator."

While industry experts were mixed on whether earnings would be affected on what was anticipated to be one of the biggest box-office weekends of 2012, Logan isn't concerned.

"We have had strong matinee showings, are getting lots of calls asking about showtimes and are not seeing any adverse effect," he said. "Obviously, everyone is talking about it, but we don't see any dampening effect on the enthusiasm for this movie."

He believes the continued flow of moviegoers to his theater shows that many, like him, believe "this is an isolated incident. After a mall shooting, we all still went to the mall, and after Columbine, kids still went to high school. This was a random thing that unfortunately happened in a theater, but I don't necessarily think it's going to happen in a theater again."

Drew Guarini contributed to this report.



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