Security increased at movies following shootings

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New York police posted officers at dozens of theaters around the city. Ticket-takers at a multiplex in Washington searched moviegoers’ bags and purses. And one of the nation’s biggest theater chains barred patrons from wearing masks or costumes.

Security was stepped up in places around the U.S. during showings of the new Batman movie Friday after the massacre in Colorado. And while some people said they were afraid to go to the movies in the wake of the shooting rampage, many others were undeterred by the tragedy and eager to see “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Jimmy Baker, 40, waited outside the AMC theater in New York’s Time Square for almost three hours to see an early matinee, as a police cruiser sat nearby.

“I just felt bad for the people that had to be traumatized by this entire event,” he said. But “I didn’t feel like it had any kind of effect on me. … I’m just here to enjoy a good movie.”

Stephanie Suriel, 21, waiting outside the same theater, said her mother was slightly concerned about her going to see the film. But “I’m not nervous at all because I really want to see that movie.”

Still, just to be safe, she said, “I’m going to sit in the back.”

Theaters took the precautions after a gunman wearing a gas mask opened fire at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., killing at least 12 people. There was extra security Friday night at four theaters showing the movie in Aurora, Police Chief Dan Oates said.

In Washington, the Homeland Security Department held a conference call with officials from the commercial, entertainment and shopping mall industries to discuss what security measures they could take to prevent something like this from happening again.

The National Association of Theater Owners said it was working closely with law enforcement authorities and reviewing security procedures, but gave no details of any precautions taken.

AMC Theatres, the nation’s second-largest theater chain, with more than 300 movie houses, said it will not allow people to wear costumes or face-covering masks into its theaters.

Fans of sci-fi and superhero movies often dress up as their favorite characters, especially on opening night. New York City’s police commissioner said the gunman in the Colorado rampage painted his hair red and called himself the Joker, Batman’s nemesis. But Aurora police would not confirm that.

The New York Police Department said was posting officers at about 40 theaters around the city that were showing the film. The increased security was a precaution against potential copycat shooters, and also meant to reassure moviegoers.

“We’re doing this to raise the comfort level,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. “We’d certainly encourage everybody to go about their business.”

At Landmark Theaters in Baltimore, moviegoer Kelly Hager said a 5 p.m. showing was nearly full with no sense of a somber mood among fellow patrons. She and a friend bought tickets earlier this week and never considered not going.

She said a few police officers were stationed outside but she saw none inside. After the movie, staff members stood outside and thanked people for coming.

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