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Theater security: What will be done?

7:31 AM, Jul 26, 2012   |    comments
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Experts do not expect to see the airport security measures put in place after 9/11 carrying over to theaters. The heightened precautions seen at some major-league sports venues, such as a substantial armed security component, are unlikely, too.

Security is a major issue in the film industry after Friday's shootings in Aurora, Colo., at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. Investigators believe the suspect, James Holmes, bought a ticket to the movie, walked out of the theater's emergency exit, propped it open, then returned and opened fire on the audience.

Movie studios and theater owners have mostly remained quiet on the subject, other than initial statements following the Colorado tragedy. Warner Bros., the company distributing The Dark Knight Rises, said it feels that this is more a concern for exhibitors. Theater owners such as AMC Theatres and Regal Entertainment expressed sorrow about the shootings and said they are reinforcing security protocols, but they did not divulge any details.

Both AMC and Regal have cracked down on customers wearing costumes and other character attire, with AMC banning face-covering masks and fake weaponry and Regal asserting its right to inspect bags.

Police in cities across the USA, including Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Dallas, have increased security at theaters in an effort to deter copycats.

At two theaters in New Orleans, officers now "pat down" individuals for weapons as they enter, says Frank Robertson of the New Orleans Police Department. "In light of what happened, we have to be vigilant."

Cost is one factor in beefing up security. Sports arenas that seat thousands of people can more easily absorb the added security costs than much smaller movie theaters, says William Bratton, a former New York and Los Angeles police chief who serves as chairman of Kroll, a risk consulting company.

"From a cost-effective standpoint, it's limited as to what theaters can do," he says. "But some things can be done."

They include monitoring cameras more intensively. On the technological front, exit doors can be alarmed and theater lights could be triggered to go on in the case of a door being opened during a movie.

Howard Levinson of Expert Security Consulting in Norton, Mass., recommends a range of preventive measures, from increased use of handheld metal detectors for certain films, such as more violent ones, to a greater security and police presence for late-night screenings.

Mike Shulman, CEO of the start-up company Weapondetect, says many movie theaters have contacted him within the past week about the new technology his company is selling, which signals an alarm when sensors recognize components common to all bullets.

"(With) the development of this kind of security sensor, ... you are more likely to stop and apprehend the individual."

USA Today

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