July 20, 2012 at 5:25 PM ET
The shooting that left 12 moviegoers dead at a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colo., a Denver suburb ranked the ninth safest city in America, left many disturbed, but didn't stop the most committed fans from seeing the movie. Attendance, however, did appear to slip, as many moviegoers are having to convince themselves that going to the movie is still a good idea.
"I bought the ticket on Fandango on my phone and then I heard about the shootings," said Cameron Justice, 23, an emergency hospital technician, who saw the film at Regal Cinemas in Seattle. "I was definitely hesitant about showing up today, but I thought, what are the chances of it happening a second time? But it definitely makes me a little nervous."
When Justice arrived at the movie theater 15 minutes before his 9:30 a.m. showing, he was taken aback by the theater’s emptiness. "There’s no one in there. I thought I was going to be too late for a good seat."
The theater saw just a few more people trickle in before the film began, but other show times and theaters saw much larger turnouts. For others like Justice who bought their tickets in advance, the shootings have slighly spoiled the movie.
"I already know it is going to be a good movie, just a huge movie," said B.J. Rochinich, 28, in Pittsburgh. But "(the shooting) put a negative vibe on it."
For those who chose to attend on Friday, the general sentiment appeared to be "there are crazies everywhere," and an individual’s action shouldn’t change their day.
Joe Ludwig, 28, saw the movie at a Regal Cinemas in Willoughby, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, without hesitation. "I’m not going to let some lunatic rain on my parade," the criminal justice student said. "I think there’s a better chance of winning the lottery than ever getting shot in a theater."
"You think when people go to movies there’s a commonality and everyone is there for a good time," said Dylan Ludwig, 19. "When I was younger I saw all the 'Harry Potter' movies at a midnight showing. It was fun. You don’t think about someone coming in to a theater and shooting people. But I guess things can really happen anywhere. Now, this shooting just gives me another thing to think about and another thing to worry about. I love going to the movies. It’s all very sad."
Stephanie Suriel, 21, of Brooklyn, N.Y., went to see the film at an AMC Theaters in Times Square and felt the same way. Although her mother was concerned about her seeing the movie, she had no qualms. "I’m not nervous at all because I really want to see this movie," she told The Associated Press.
Not all attendees have been quite so audacious though. While many still want to see the movie, they’ve attempted to take precautions.
"I think security is an issue," said Allison Paytosh, 26, who works at a community college near the cinema in Seattle and has "grown up on 'Batman'." "The reason why I came here is because there are multiple levels, so I think it’s a little bit harder for someone to get into the theater through back doors," she said.
Whether or not that would deter a shooter is impossible to know, but Regal Entertainment Group, the world’s largest cinema operator, issued a statement about its security policy following the shooting at the Cinemark Theater in Aurora, with whom it is unaffiliated. "The security and safety of our guests and staff is always our number one priority. As is our custom, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary."
While a few moviegoers would like to see added security measures, such as metal detectors or frisks upon entry, most believe life must move on.
Anthony Clay, 24, of Cleveland, has been a Batman fan since he was a kid and had "no hesitation" about seeing the movie on Friday afternoon.
"Anything can happen anywhere," he said. But he does think it wouldn’t be a bad idea to have police or some type of security in the lobbies of theaters, not just for "The Dark Knight Rises," but all the time. "Seriously, it’s crazy to me that I would even say that, but things are crazy everywhere. It seems like everybody is going nuts."
Anita Avila, 28, an optician in Seattle said, "I just think it’s tainting the movie itself. I love midnight showings. I’m not going to stop going to midnight showings just because one idiot went crazy." She added, "We were more anxious about seeing the movie!"
Additional reporting by contributors Joan Raymond in Ohio and Meghan Holohan in Pennsylvania.