DENVER — Relatives of those killed in the Aurora movie shooting called Wednesday for a boycott of the Century 16 theater and rejected an offer to attend a reopening ceremony in two weeks.
Calling the invitation "a disgusting offer," family members representing nine of the 12 victims blasted Cinemark, the theater's owner, for failing to show compassion in the aftermath of the July 20 massacre.
Cinemark invited families of the victims to attend a "special evening of remembrance" at 5 p.m. Jan. 17, at the theater, followed by a movie. The invitation, forwarded to relatives by the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, said counselors would be available on site.
The angry response faulted the company for sending the invitation two days after Christmas, making "what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything, and yours is awful."
The relatives also accused the company of refusing requests to meet with them without attorneys present after the shooting. Signed by 15 family members, the letter says Cinemark officials "have never once reached out to families to offer condolences."
"After reading our response to your ridiculously offensive invitation, you now know why we will not be attending your reopening celebration and will be using every social media tool at our disposal to ask the other victims to ask their friends and family to honor us by boycotting the killing field of our children," says the letter, signed by "The Families of the Aurora Cinemark Theater Massacre."
Cinemark, based in Plano, Texas, had no immediate comment on the letter.
Tension between Cinemark and the victims' families has been palpable for months. Relatives have filed a slew of lawsuits against Cinemark alleging that the theater failed to provide proper security, while attorneys for the company have filed motions to dismiss the lawsuits, arguing that the attack could not have been foreseen.
The accused gunman, James Eagan Holmes, entered through an emergency exit at the front of the theater during a midnight showing of a newly released Batman movie, "The Dark Knight Rises." The shooting left 12 dead and 70 injured.
Mr. Holmes, charged with multiple counts of first-degree and attempted murder, was back in court Wednesday for a hearing on procedural issues. He has not yet entered a plea, but prosecutors are slated to lay out their case against him in a weeklong hearing that begins Monday in Arapahoe County District Court.
Deciding whether to reopen or raze the site of a mass shooting is a tricky issue and one Coloradans have dealt with before. Columbine High School, the location of the April 1999 massacre, was reopened the following fall after extensive renovations that included the removal of the library, the site of the worst carnage.
An August survey sponsored by the city of Aurora found that a majority of residents want to see the theater reopen. Cinemark has spent the past several months renovating the theater, including replacing Theater 9, where the shooting occurred, with a floor-to-ceiling XD screen.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper and Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan are expected to attend the reopening ceremony, according to a Cinemark statement released Dec. 5.
In the letter, family members accuse Cinemark of ignoring their "mental anguish" in its "quest for profits."
"We, the families, recognize your thinly veiled publicity ploy for what it is: A great opportunity for you to distance yourselves and divert public scrutiny from your culpability in this massacre," the letter says.
• This article is based in part on wire service reports.
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