About a year and a half ago, twelve people were shot to death and countless more were injured during a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The shooter had a score to settle with the larger world and tragically decided to use that particular theater in Aurora, Colorado as his platform. Lawsuits and a whole lot of sadness followed, as well as a plenty of conversations about instituting security protocols.
Earlier, a man in Florida was shot to death at a screening of Lone Survivor. The victim apparently was texting his daughter before the movie began, and the gunman decided it was a capital offense. Then, for good measure, he shot the texter’s wife too because apparently, being associated with a texter is also a capital offense. Thankfully, doctors expect her to make a full recovery from her injuries, but even so, she’s now left to pick up the pieces and explain to her children that their father is never coming home.
That’s two high profile shootings in less than two years. Add those tragedies to the fights and heated arguments that occasionally take place in theaters and it paints a pretty ugly picture. In the coming days and weeks, the calls for metal detectors and security guards will likely ring louder and louder. It’s easy to see why too. It’s only natural to call into question our own safety when someone dies during an activity we frequently take part in, and it’s only natural to want a sense of peace and comfort inside a place we take our families.
But do we really need metal detectors? Do we really need security guards making the rounds and poking their heads into screenings every few minutes? Let’s take a step back and look at the facts.
The incidents I’ve described above are far from the only flagrant examples of movie theater-related violence. A man got shot for talking during Benjamin Button back in 2008. There was a horrifying gang fight at a drive-in back in the late 1970s that led to one death. During the early 90s, there were several stabbings and shootings in theater parking lots, one of which was fatal. I could go on and on for a few more paragraphs, but to generalize, there’s been, on average, a serious issue of violence or two in a theater in the United States a year for the last forty years or so. That’s enough to turn your stomach, but depressingly, those figures are actually lower or on par with those for most other places people gather in.
Take professional sports stadiums as an example. At least once a season, a rival fan is beaten for no other reason than having the nerve to wear another team’s uniform. How about schools? I think we’re all well aware of the massacres that have occurred inside places of learning. Sadly, even houses of worship aren’t off limits when it comes to random violence. And the places you’d expect violence -- like bars? Those figures are downright scary.
The truth is there’s danger everywhere, and there’s really no more reason to fortify a theater as there is a school park or a bus stop.
The world is a dangerous place, and we can’t protect every inch of it from the crazies. Would a metal detector inside the theater have saved the texter’s life? Yes, it probably would have. But would it have prevented the shooter from killing someone else at some point in time? That’s a complicated question but probably not. The type of person willing to pull a gun on someone for texting is the typically the type of person who would pull a gun on someone else for a seemingly minor offense. If so, wasn't the theater just the random place these people's anger happened to boil over?
If we collectively feel we need metal detectors inside movie theaters than we sure as hell need them inside schools. And if we need them inside schools, we need them inside restaurants and grocery stores and malls. And if we have metal detectors everywhere, what kind of life is that?
The chances of a United States citizen being randomly murdered are very, very small, unless they’re engaging in a high risk activity. And even though there was just a high profile shooting, going to the movies is not a high risk activity, nor will it ever be. There’s only so much time, energy and effort we, as a society, can put into preventative safety measures. Outfitting every movie theater in America with metal detectors would cost tens of millions of dollars. Outfitting every movie theater with security guards would cost even more. Maybe someday it will happen, but for now, I would rather money be spent to increase security in inner cities and other locations that have real violence problems, not the occasional high profile homicide.
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Mack Rawden is the Editor-In-Chief of CinemaBlend. He first started working at the publication as a writer back in 2007 and has held various jobs at the site in the time since including Managing Editor, Pop Culture Editor and Staff Writer. He now splits his time between working on CinemaBlend’s user experience, helping to plan the site’s editorial direction and writing passionate articles about niche entertainment topics he’s into. He graduated from Indiana University with a degree in English (go Hoosiers!) and has been interviewed and quoted in a variety of publications including Digiday. Enthusiastic about Clue, case-of-the-week mysteries, a great wrestling promo and cookies at Disney World. Less enthusiastic about the pricing structure of cable, loud noises and Tuesdays.