After the Colorado shooting: Will going to the movies eventually feel normal?

We planned before the Colorado shooting to see the new Batman movie “The Dark Knight Rises” on Sunday afternoon. I had a babysitter hired and hated to break that commitment to her.

After the shooting, we felt a little weird going to see the movie but thought it would be OK once we got seated and the movie started. It wasn’t.

Our local multiplex had the new Batman movie playing in multiple theaters starting about every 40 minutes.  The showings appeared to be packed.

When we walked into the lobby we immediately noticed all the extra employees – some with the security company and some just regular employees.

When we walked into the theater itself, we saw the manager and two other employees standing on the side of the theater watching everyone file in.

When I sat down my eyes went to the emergency exits picturing in my mind someone coming in through the door holding a gun.  I kept watching the doors to make sure they stayed shut.  The previews were rolling but in my head I was planning my escape. I thought about getting low behind seats. I thought about getting to the exit on the right side of the theater.

Before the movie started, the manager stopped the previews and spoke. He didn’t mention the shooting. He talked about not texting and if there were any small children that couldn’t be settled to please bring them out and they would give you a rain check to return another day. (There were so many small children that didn’t belong in this movie, but that is a different article.)

Michael thought the manager speaking and the extra employees were supposed to make you feel comforted. It didn’t. It made me feel like they were worried about copycats.

As the movie got started, my eyes couldn’t help but follow people walking up and down the stairs. You knew they were just going to the bathroom or to get a drink but they made me nervous as hell. I couldn’t get focused on the movie.

I kept trying to remember at which point in the movie the shooter came in.  I kept looking at those emergency exits.

Without giving away too much of the plot, early in the movie there is a mass shooting. I about lost it at that point. I teared up and thought about walking out. You couldn’t help but think about the people in Aurora being shot the same way.

(See an Entertainment Weekly article about onscreen violence.)

I guess I finally focused on the movie because at one point a lady came back from the bathroom and stopped at our aisle. She startled me, and I nearly jumped out of my seat.

Other people did go to the theater this weekend to see the new Batman movie, although maybe not as many as would have gone if the shooting had not occurred. According to Entertainment Weekly:

‘The Dark Knight Rises took in an estimated $162 million over the weekend, reports The New York Times, giving it a slightly better opening than its predecessor, but still less than either The Avengers or the final Harry Potter film. While that number was below some projections of $190 million, it indicates that moviegoers weren’t strongly dissuaded from attending screenings in the wake of the Colorado shooting. (Though pre-sale tickets are certainly a factor as well.)”

I’m not sure if my stress level was so high because it was the same movie the poor victims were watching or if was just being in the darkened theater.

I flew in a small plane about a week after a similar one from the same airline crashed and obviously kids still go to school despite school shootings. But somehow sitting in the dark theater, I felt very vulnerable.

I had planned to take the kids to see Madagascar 3 this week and Rose wants to see the Katie Perry movie. I don’t know if these movies will feel any better to me. I may put them off until the next week. But will it feel normal then?

Did you see the Dark Knight Rises despite the shooting? Were you freaked out? Did it make you uncomfortable? Did you focus on the emergency doors and people coming up the aisle like I did? Do you think other movies will feel OK?

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[...] After the Colorado shooting: Will going to the movies eventually feel normal?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)After the shooting, we felt a little weird going to see the movie but thought it would be OK once we got seated and the movie started. It wasn't. Our local multiplex had the new Batman movie playing in multiple theaters starting about every 40 minutes.Despite Colorado shooting, local fans head to the moviesColumbus Ledger-EnquirerAurora, Colorado: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang — I Lost It At the MoviesHuffington Post (blog)Gun attack at Batman film premiere in DenverChina DailyWashington Post -Denver Post -phillyBurbs.comall 20,654 news articles » [...]

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July 23rd, 2012
5:16 am

Just saw the movie even though I really wasn’t feeling up for it, I was extremely freaked out the entire time I was staring at the emergency doors and watching every persons movement in the aisles, and have never experienced such panic. I don’t think I will be going to the movies any time soon.


July 23rd, 2012
7:21 am

Lets not give the mad man who did the shooting the satisfaction of instilling fear in our society. I for one will be resilient, and go wherever I desire, when I desire. Including the movies if I choose.If we allow fear to control us, evil wins. I believe we are all better than that.

My heart and prayers go out to all of the victims and their families.


July 23rd, 2012
7:31 am

My heart goes out to the families involved in this tragedy. I rarely go to the movies, so it will not change my pattern there. What if it were a museum or a baseball game?
I did get on airplanes the weeks after 911. Does being in a dark theater or up in the air make you feel more vulnerable? I do not know. I live my life. I drive in terrible traffic all the time and passed 3 ambulances, with people on stretchers, last night. It could have been me for sure but it was not. I cannot walk around being scared every day. That’s just me.


July 23rd, 2012
7:39 am

I gave up on movies years ago, so it won’t impact me in that way.

I’m with MJG, again.


July 23rd, 2012
7:58 am


As Sluggo said – continue to do what you are doing.

Do not let fear rule your life.

May the victims RIP and may their families have peace. I hope each and every person in that theater gets some sort of counseling. That is NOT something you need to keep inside. It will tear you up. Get help, talk to someone, ANY ONE!!!


July 23rd, 2012
8:21 am

@ TWG…I am proud of you for going. Knowning how you worry about things, I would say you were facing a fear.

I agree with the others who say that to allow the actions of that single person to keep the rest away is just wrong. Then the shooter not only gets his 15 min of fame, but he he gets the power he was seeking.

I am sure it will take time for us to feel “normal”. As Delta employee working at Hartsfield on 9/11, I know it will take time. I also know that we will get there.

Not just those injured & their families, but those that were there and have that horror burned into their minds … may they find the peace they need.

Voice of Reason

July 23rd, 2012
8:39 am

I’m very excited to see this movie, but I’m also patient enough to wait until it comes out on Blu-Ray, where I do not have to take out a loan to afford the price of admission, and I can watch it on better equipment in the safety and security of my own home without inconsiderate people who refuse to turn off their cellphones, talk and text during the movie, and generally act like idiots. Oh yeah, and at home I don’t have to worry about some psychopath coming in through what should be a secure exit-only door with an automatic weapon and killing me.

This is not me allowing the terrorists to win, this is me taking a stand on the fact that it sucks to go see a movie in the theater, this tragedy just puts icing on the cake, so to speak.


July 23rd, 2012
10:07 am

Like others, I don’t go to the movies so this event does not change my pattern in that respect. Having a spouse who is prior military has taught me to pay attention to doors, windows, exits etc. He scans faces whenever we go somewhere. Not paranoid, just aware of our surroundings.


July 23rd, 2012
10:23 am

We do not go to the movies on a regular basis but this event would not have given me cause for panic. I was in an airplane when 9/11 happened and I have flown dozens of times since and I routinely see numerous traffic accidents every week yet I still drive. Other than thoughts to the victims and their families, I can honestly say that I would have given no thought to the event in Colorado had we gone to the movies.


July 23rd, 2012
10:26 am

I think the big difference between flying after 911 and goin to the movies is at least they werechecking everyone getting on the plane for weapons. I’m not saying people should be searched going into a theater but u have less knowledge about the people around u. Also theshoter came in through the emergecy door. I guess maybe theaterswill check those doors are closed more often…


July 23rd, 2012
10:44 am

TWG – I must say that I am shocked you actually went.

Like MJG & Jeff, I rarely go to the movies so this incident won’t change my habits.

I am not a nervous person and feel like my time will get here when it does and there’s nothing I can do about that so I might as well live and experience life in a way that makes me happy.


July 23rd, 2012
11:12 am

Nope — won’t bother me a bit. That was there, this is here, that was then, this is now. It’s news because it’s a singularly RARE occurrence. I love going to movies, and frankly, I won’t give it a second thought the next time we go. Just like I don’t think about hijackers on airplanes or robbers in banks or madmen at malls or madmen in plane when I’m in a tall office building.

You CAN’T keep thinking about this stuff, or you will go mad. You have to continue to live your life. TWG, I’m glad you went, anyway — good for you. But a quick check of emergency exits is just one of those things that you should do automatically — I always know how to get out of a place. And especially in theatres, the emergency exit is sometimes the fastest way out of the theatre! Maybe it’s my mild case of claustrophobia :-)

C from Marietta

July 23rd, 2012
11:21 am

This is without a doubt a horrible and a dark day for our country. However, what are the odds it will happen to you? Really scared to go to the movies now?
There are WAY more fatal cars wrecks everyday. Living life afraid if everything is not living. We are all going to die at some point. America has turned into a nation of wusses.


July 23rd, 2012
11:29 am

@ theresa the shooter did not come in through the emergency door. He paid for a ticket like everyone else. What he did was go in and prop open the security door where (I am guessing) he had stationed his stuff outside. The movie started and about 20 min in (”Without giving away too much of the plot, early in the movie there is a mass shooting. I about lost it at that point.”)he retrieved his weapons, donned the mask, and under the guise of the action on screen proceeded to act from that point (with the emergency door behind him)….on this account all the of the survivors of the front few rows have been confident. That is WHY they thought it was part of the movie and did not immediately react. Make no mistake, this guy thought this out to a very fine detail, including having music go off in his booby trapped apartment, where I still feel sure it was not to kill the first police to enter. I very much believe it was to annoy his neighbors enough to get them to open the door (left ajar/unlocked) and blowing the buildings up. Creating additional mayhem for the authorities to handle and thus allowing him to escape. One of the amazing things to have happened is that people really did react quickly (dropping to the floor, grabbing victims into other theaters and barring the doors, covering loved ones, etc)…tus they had 911 on their cells even as they were being shot (ala “Let’s Roll”)thus the cops were enroute quickly…the other of course is that his automatic clogged and stopped firing.

I know nothing on the shooter other than what has been reported…but that is really how it seems to have played out when you look at the accounts thus far.


July 23rd, 2012
11:31 am

OH and they are checking people with backpacks and stuff at the theaters. Or at least some are. Also dressing in costume to see the movie was going to get the theater to refuse to seat you. Again, this is based on what several news stories reported.


July 23rd, 2012
11:33 am

I don’t go to the movies often… but this won’t stop me. The one thing I cannot understand about this whole situation is why an alarm didn’t sound when the back emergency door was opened. For instance, at our gym, if you exit out a door that says Emergency Exit, an alarm sounds similar to a fire alarm. I don’t know this whole thing is just sad, sickening, and crazy.

Voice of Reason

July 23rd, 2012
11:46 am


The alarm typically does not sound when you leave through an emergency exit in a movie theater because people may use those exits when it’s not really an emergency, like when the movie is over and people use the fire exits to actually just leave the theater without going through the mass exodus that goes through the front doors.

I’ve actually strategically parked near the fire exit so that I can leave through the fire exit at the end of the movie as to avoid the masses of people all trying to leave at the same time.

Though, if theaters learn anything from this, odds are they won’t be allowing people to do this anymore.


July 23rd, 2012
12:26 pm

Like MJG and others, I hardly go to the movies, unless there’s one playing that I really want to see.

That being said, I agree with Sluggo. If you refuse to go to the movies because of fear of a repeat of what happened in Aurora, then Mr. Holmes won. We should be resilient and vigilant and still go to the movies. I had posted on my Facebook Saturday morning that this past weekend should be a movie weekend, to take the family, friends, anyone you can get to go to the movies with you, or even go by yourself, and go see “Dark Knight Rises” or “Ice Age: Continental Drift” or “Ted” or any other movie you wish to see.

I did just that Saturday, but I will admit, as a knee-jerk reaction, I kept looking at the exit door leading to the outside. Movie theaters don’t need to expend thousands of dollars on security detail. They just need to make those exit doors into emergency exit doors, with the security bar across them, and rigged up to an alarm that will sound when activated. Install some infrared (”night-vision”) cameras in every theater, one aimed at the exterior exit door, one aimed at each interior door, and a few at different parts of the seating area.


July 23rd, 2012
12:47 pm

My sense of security at the theatre has been shaken but it has not been destroyed. Despite this horrible act of violence I will contiune to go to the theatre because I love watching movies.


July 23rd, 2012
1:19 pm

I went to see the movie on Saturday around 1pm. I felt nothing weird and the no one else in the half full theater seemed to behave differently. It was a pretty normal matinee crowd.


July 23rd, 2012
1:33 pm

Yes. God is in control. What will happen will happen. I will not live in fear.


July 23rd, 2012
1:38 pm

I just don’t get being freaked out because some whack job shot up a theater in Colorado. I still think of the Perimeter Mall food court shootings in the 90s every time I go there, but I’ve continued to go there and not worry since it happened. We went to the movies Friday night at Atlantic Station and all the Batman showings were sold out. I certainly didn’t feel weird or nervous at all. I noticed two security officers at the entrance where they tear the tickets, but I thought it was just because it was a crowded Friday night, and I’ve seen security officers at other theaters on crowded weekends before any of this happened.

Live your life -no one’s going to shoot up your theater, or maybe they will -who knows? Maybe you’ll get creamed by a semi tomorrow or struck by lightening or find out you have a terminal illness. Live your life while you have it to live!


July 23rd, 2012
4:01 pm

Those precautionary mental notes — emergency exit locations & what not — you were making are common sense precautions that can be made by a perfectly reasonable person. The information is useful for any unexpected situation from fire to severe weather to the extraordinarily rare occurrence like a lone gunman. They cost you nothing, there’s at least a slim chance they could save your life. Pretty good potential ROI.

In & of themselves, you should be proud you were smart enough to make those notes & try to reconcile the conflict you seem to have about making them.

When I sat down my eyes went to the emergency exits picturing in my mind someone coming in through the door holding a gun. I kept watching the doors to make sure they stayed shut. The previews were rolling but in my head I was planning my escape. I thought about getting low behind seats. I thought about getting to the exit on the right side of the theater.

“somehow sitting in the dark theater, I felt very vulnerable.” — that’s reality, unwelcome intruder though it may be. In most public situations you ARE very vulnerable to a determined individual with bad intentions. But if you’re going to take on that reality then you also have to accept another fact: the odds of an encounter with that sort of individual are incredibly slim. Taken together, there’s a lot of room for rational awareness & behavior, nothing that should leave you in a state of emotional distress.


July 23rd, 2012
4:02 pm

Aaaand somehow I ended up quoting waaaay more of your post than I intended. Sorry for the rather confusing mess that made of my post. Just omit the third paragraph when reading & it should make a lot more sense (I hope).

non committal mind reader

July 23rd, 2012
4:06 pm

is this a serious question? Does everyone alter their lives because one kook goes on a killing spree somewhere in the world.

I am not afraid of the ocean because someone got eaten by a shark in Australia.
I am not afraid of sushi, burgers, lettuce, etc. because their have been outbreaks of e coli in these things.
I am not afraid of riding in a car because there was a car crash this morning.
I am not afraid of swimming because someone drowned in Lake Lanier this year.
I do not shake in my boots during thunderstorms because someone got killed by lightning last week.

I am not afraid of XXXX because some freak occurrence happened to YYYYY.

You get my drift? Lots of bad stuff happens every day, every where in the world. It is important for an individual to reach logical, rational conclusions about the odds of a similar thing happening to other individuals. I expect that children should be comforted because they have no world view to separate possibility from reality. But adults?


July 23rd, 2012
4:16 pm

Here is a question I have, Did the Mom ( Dad) see anything weird in her son prior to the event? I am asking this because a neighbor stopped by while walking her dog on Saturday. We were working in our yard. We started chatting and she mentioned this story. Then, she mentioned a VERY suspicious house at the other side of our neighborhood. There are teens and twenties in and out every day. She lives near the main street…we do not. She sees unusual things going on and has even chatted with the police about it ( who admit that they are keeping an eye on it). We have random patrols that keep an eye on things since the pool tends to get vandalized in the summer. WHAT if anything should be done? I am not on that end of the neighborhood very often. You would not even notice anything unless you are told. We know other people who live closer and they too, say something is ODD! It would be TERRIBLE if something tragic happened but I am not sure if anything can be done. Do parents just keep a blind eye?

Almost twenty years ago, we reported unusual activity in our previous neighborhood and eventually there was a BIG drug bust. Undercover police were up and down the street.
It was too weird! What about the METH house that blew up and killed kids in Gwinnett County. Did anyone have a clue what was going on?


July 23rd, 2012
4:17 pm

TWG…I just typed a question I have and it is gone. Cannot retype!

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July 23rd, 2012
5:32 pm

Theresa, please go easier on yourself than some of these folks are. Fear is not always rational and reactions (panic, easily startled, etc) are not always controllable. The fact that some people can simply think through the odds and feel fine about going to a movie, doesn’t mean everyone can. Of course you shouldn’t refuse to go to a theater ever again, but if you need to give yourself a little time to feel more comfortable and wait until next week to see Madagascar, then do so. You don’t have to prove anything to anyone, and giving yourself some time to calm down and get a little distance from the current constant coverage of the event isn’t letting the evil guy “win”.


July 23rd, 2012
6:51 pm

I’m not a movie go-er either, but it would not change my plans. There are kooks everywhere (I am a teacher; I KNOW there are!) I just do the best I can from day to day, and try to avoid things like standing under a tree during a thunderstorm–things we KNOW are dumb. I haven’t stopped flying or going to the beach or anything else because of crazy people we have had. Could it happen again? Sure, but probably not. Life goes on; we live it.


July 23rd, 2012
7:09 pm

You can’t live in fear.

[...] Weekend at MoviesWall Street Journal (blog)Movies and real life: The debate rages onThe RepublicAfter the Colorado shooting: Will going to the movies eventually feel normal?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)About – News & Issues -Lexington Herald [...]


July 23rd, 2012
7:24 pm

Been twice…it’s no different.

[...] Weekend at MoviesWall Street Journal (blog)Movies and real life: The debate rages onThe RepublicAfter the Colorado shooting: Will going to the movies eventually feel normal?Atlanta Journal Constitution (blog)About – News & Issues -Lexington Herald [...]


July 23rd, 2012
11:07 pm

Sounds like you need to find less strenuous activity….


July 23rd, 2012
11:23 pm

Chassity –

If “God is in control” why did this tragedy happen?


July 24th, 2012
12:01 am

Don’t go to movies but would not be fearful if I did. My thoughts and prayers extend to those affected by this horrific incident. Was not fearful of flying after 9/11 but took a long time during numerous flights to not think of victims, families, and what they and our entire country experienced. Was in Cenntenial Park, Atl in ‘96 w/ 2 small children an hour before bombing.

Those incidents did not impact my way of life. Will have to admit, what the whack-job psycho did to Meredith Emerson in N. Ga and his other victims totally froze me in my tracks. Still run on streets but won’t run on trails unless heavily populated. Will no longer hike alone. Realistic fear or caving to the horrific acts of a psycho?


July 24th, 2012
12:20 am

@HB – Nicely said. And kind.


July 24th, 2012
6:40 am

Yet, you will drive on busy dangerous roads, without a thought that this could be you last ride on the planet, because some knucklehead must text message you to your grave…and theirs too.

Come On…you can’t let the cowards and nut cases win. What if the Apollo astronauts had said, “That capsule caught fire, and roasted Gus and the boys. No way am I getting back in one of those things. It’s just not the same anymore.”?

I refuse to live my life worrying about every heartbeat I have being my last. The ONLY thing you have is the now, with thoughts for the future that may never come. Live life full on and realize that every day can be your last.


July 24th, 2012
6:48 am

Colorado has what I consider to be good gun laws. It is too bad that some packing heat citizen didn’t either have the presence of mind, or courage, to come up behind this wacko and plug a round or six into his unprotected neck. That would have saved lives and taxpayers money. I would have been more than happy to help this creep with his ticket to the big sleep.

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July 24th, 2012
11:15 am

you can’t let one lone nut change how you live. and shaggy, i think this guy was counting on someone fighting back. he had on full riot gear and was throwing gas grenades around the room. he knew people out west often carry guns. he made it darn near impossible for anyone to try to stop him.

Mildred Willingham

July 29th, 2012
9:41 pm

Enter your comments here God is real and Jesus is Alive beyond the clouds in heaven preparing a place for those who love and will follow him. He sas born of Virgin mother, lived an obedient life and suffered on Calvary, and became sin for this cruel world to redeem our soul from Eternal death. Believers and Unbelievers you better be ready when he call you home. Becaus eternity will be spent in HEAVEN OR HELL. You must choose this day and everyday -whom you will follow. The Devil will appear as an Angel of Light. He is on earth since he was kick out of heaven and he sought and found someone to kill, steal and destroy peace and happiness in the Dark Movie Theater. Just beware and ask God for Wisdom and pick up your Bible and read . Jesus loves us. The images on Big Screen are beliveable but Sinful and not to be copied. I am sure justice will be served on the evil and the unrighteous acts of the shooter. I hope the shooter get to know Jesus while he spend the rest of his life in prison. Forgivenss is needed and will come in time for the families of the victims, and I feel sorry for all involved int the Colorado Tragedy. As for myself I like non-violent movies. So, I wlll continue to go to the matinees. Nothing after dark. Thats when the Devil is busiest.