As a stunned Colorado community dealt with tragedy from a shooting massacre at a movie theater today, Carmike Cinemas said vigilance at its theaters across the United States has been heightened.
I think everybodys paying attention to security just because of what happened, said Terrell Mayton, director of marketing with Carmike, which is headquartered in Columbus and operates four theaters locally.
There have been no threats, no calls or anything like that. But you certainly cant let your vigilance down, he said of Carmike, which at last count operated 236 movie houses in 35 states.
That includes the Carmike 15 on Whittlesey Boulevard, the Ritz 13 at Hollywood Connection on Whittlesey Road and the Wynnsong 10 at Fort Benning. A second-run theater, Peachtree 8, is adjacent to Peachtree Mall.
The enhanced awareness of possible threats comes in the wake of the early Friday shooting at a theater in Aurora, Colo., where a lone gunman opened fire on people in a crowded auditorium watching the new Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises. As of Friday evening, the toll was 12 dead and 59 wounded.
Carmike has standard security procedures in place at all times, Mayton said. But during special events, such as the opening of a blockbuster movie, additional people are hired to keep the peace, he said. They include uniformed off-duty officers, as well as those in civilian clothes.
We do always staff for special events, he said. Some of our security stuff is visible, some is not in the sight of guests. Youve been out to our theaters and seen sheriffs deputies inside the building.
The Colorado shooting is still being investigated. But initial reports indicate the gunman possibly entered through an exit door before donning a gas mask in the auditorium, releasing a gas canister and opening fire amid panicked movie-goers.
Mayton noted Carmikes policy is to have ushers walk through its theaters to check the audio and video quality, but also to make sure emergency exit doors are closed.
They also are trained to notice anything unusual inside the theaters, such as a backpack or other mysterious items. That is especially the case when major events such as that accompanied by The Dark Knight Rises and other superhero flicks that prompt fans to dress up like the movies characters.
Ive heard different points of view about wearing costumes, he said. People love to come out to these big events in costumes. We had Batman and Catwoman (last night in Columbus) and it was Catwomans birthday and the whole auditorium sang Happy Birthday to her. They love that stuff. Its fun, its exciting, its escapism and entertainment.
The goal, he said, is to provide a secure, fun experience at all of Carmikes theaters.
Mayton, who is from Denver, said he can empathize with those now experiencing the tragedy. He pointed to the Columbine High massacre in 1999 and the more recent shooting at New Life Church there.
This is a horrible event, he said. But if you look at the history of theaters and these types of events happening, its extremely rare. So it tells you that the security and the things in place at theaters have been working.