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Aurora shootings: What should be done with theater now?

The company that owns the theater where the Aurora shootings took place is asking residents what it should do with the building. It is an important question for communities looking to move beyond mass shootings. 

By Staff writer / August 23, 2012

A group of people hold hands and pray in July at a memorial across from the theater in Aurora, Colo., where 12 people were killed and more than 50 wounded in a shooting attack.

Alex Brandon/AP/File

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City officials in Aurora, Colo., are soliciting the community for feedback regarding the future of a multiplex movie theater that became the site of one of the worst mass shootings in US history.

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Cinemark Holdings, Inc., a national movie chain, owns the Century Aurora 16 movie theater and will make the final decision. The theater chain contacted the city for help in hosting the survey, which is linked to from the city’s official website and Facebook page, says Kim Stuart, communications director for the city.

“The city and the theater are working together on gathering input and thoughts to provide insight and help to guide our process,” Ms. Stuart says. “The theater had wanted input, and we’re accustomed to doing that. We have a community that is really engaged, so it made sense for us to issue the survey.”

The survey tells users the city hopes “that the entire community will participate and benefit from the citywide healing process … these comments will be shared with Cinemark for consideration in their decision making process.”

Community members have until Aug. 31 to input their comments. Past that, no timeline has been established on making the final decision, Stuart says.

A gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others on July 20 during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” James Holmes, the shooting suspect, is charged with 24 counts of first-degree murder and 116 counts of attempted murder. He is being held without bail while waiting trial outside Denver.

The theater has not reopened since the shooting and large fencing blocks off its parking lot. A spokesman for Cinemark did not immediately return a phone call and e-mail seeking comment.

The process in Aurora is a familiar one for communities that are forced to decide what to do with a building that becomes linked to mass violence. In an effort to move on, some choose to raze the structure and build a memorial to victims, while others decide to keep the structure and either transform it into a space that talks about violence, or return it to its former use in an effort to show that daily life should not be deterred.

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