- The Washington Times - Friday, July 20, 2012

Some local police and movie theaters are enacting stricter security measures after a gunman opened fire early Friday morning at a theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and injuring more than 50 during the midnight premiere of the much-anticipated Batman flick “The Dark Knight Rises.”

In the District, police will spend part of their normal patrols at and around local movie theaters.

“We will ensure that our police officers are paying close attention to the theaters throughout the weekend,” Metropolitan Police Department spokesman Officer Araz Alali said.

MPD is staying in contact with federal law enforcement partners looking into the Aurora, Colo. shootings and could extend the theater patrols past the weekend based on what information is learned through the investigation, he said.

At Smithsonian museums, pre-existing security measures will be stepped up. “The Dark Knight Rises” is screening at three of the Smithsonian’s Imax theaters.

People attending films are already required to go through bag checks and metal detectors, just like any museum visitors. In light of the shootings, spokeswoman Linda St. Thomas said additional security measures will be added. She could not provide further details.

The Smithsonian does not expect film attendance to dwindle because of the shootings. Friday afternoon, Ms. St. Thomas said all the weekend’s movies were already sold out.

At the Regal Gallery Place multiplex in downtown Washington, moviegoers trickled into an 11 a.m. Friday showing of “The Dark Knight Rises.” Theater employees searched patrons’ bags and purses while taking their tickets.

“I’m believing that it’s not related so much to the movie,” Steve Glaude, a 57-year-old federal employee, said of the shooting. “The movie may have been a trigger. It may not have been. We don’t know. I don’t think it was hero or villain emulation.”

Regal Entertainment Group, which operates 16 theaters in the D.C. metro area, said they would do what they need to keep patrons safe.

“As is our custom, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary,” officials said in a press release.

They could not provide further details on security measures.

In Maryland, Montgomery County police officers have increased their presence at theaters, which will continue throughout the weekend, spokeswoman Angela Cruze said. Off-duty county police officers regularly provide security at movie theaters and are required to let the police dispatcher know they are there. In addition to these routine measures, officers have patrolled movie theaters since the shooting.

Police in Virginia counties will continue patrolling as normal. Fairfax County has no plans to heighten security, police officials said.

In Arlington County, police already provide off-duty details for movie security, and they will continue to do so with no increase, said spokesman Dustin Sternbeck.

Andrea Noble and the Associated Press contributed to this report

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