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Colorado shooting: Security alarms sound beyond theater industry

Theaters are reviewing security procedures after the Colorado shooting at a midnight movie premier, but security experts warn Americans must learn to be vigilant at all large public venues.

By Staff writer / July 20, 2012

Police block the road in front of an apartment where the suspect in a theater shooting, identified as 24-year-old James Holmes, lived in Aurora, Colo., on Friday.

Ed Andrieski/AP

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Los Angeles

The Colorado shooting at a midnight screening of the new Batman film is sending a chill throughout the entertainment industry.

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Parents are holding their children out of midnight screenings, while theater chains are reviewing security procedures and assuring theatergoers they will be safe. And Warner Brothers, the studio behind the film, canceled the Friday night Paris premier of the movie and all interviews with the director and cast.

But security experts say this event is also a wakeup call about the need for more security at all types of large gatherings.

“It doesn’t matter if it’s a football game, Disneyland, Six Flags Over America, or a rock concert,” says Jeffrey Slotnick, chair of the Physical Security Council of ASIS, a national trade organization devoted to industrial security needs. “We need to be more vigilant. Americans simply don’t have the luxury of walking around any more without paying attention to what might be going on.”

Mr. Slotnick points to the year-old Department of Homeland Security program dubbed “If You See Something, Say Something,” which encourages all citizens to develop better antennae for detecting suspicious behavior and reporting it.

Take this Colorado shooting, which left 12 dead and 59 wounded, he says. “Somebody saw this man in the parking lot, maybe even going into the theater wherever he got access,” he says, “you can’t hide the four guns he was carrying, as well as ammunition and some kind of incendiary device.”

Beyond that, says Ernest DelBuono, senior vice president at Levick Strategic communications, a Washington-based crisis  management firm, there are always signs and indications leading up to this extreme behavior.

“Nobody just wakes up and decides to pick up four military grade weapons and go off to a movie theater and shoot more than 50 people,” he says.

Nonetheless, The National Association of Theater Owners has announced it is working with the Department of Homeland Security to review security procedures and policies for all its member exhibitors nationwide.

The nation’s three largest theater chains, Cinemark, Regal Entertainment, and AMC Entertainment, have condemned the violence and are reassuring consumers they will be safe in the theaters over the weekend.

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