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Colorado shootings likely to change movie going experience indefinitely

In the wake of the Colorado theater shootings, many movie chains have changed their security policies. No masks, fake weapons, or backpacks. But would theater-goers accept metal detectors?

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“If they start making going to the movies like going to the airport, it’s going to hurt theaters, no question about it. Theaters are at a point where they can’t make it less attractive to attend,” Ms. Adams says.

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Increased security measures are inevitable now, just like they were in airports after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks and reinforced security on college campuses following the massacre at Virginia Tech University, says Paul Levinson, a media expert at Fordham University in New York who predicts metal detectors will be installed in theaters in most major cities.

“Once the line crosses into something like this, the movie industry has to think of ways to make the public feel safe,” Mr. Levinson says.

Theater chains have an incentive to increase security because, unlike attending class or traveling, they know people can just as easily stay home. “You don’t have to go to the movies. It’s a completely optional experience. So the last thing the industry needs is people worried about going to the movies,” he says.

Just like the airline industry, the measures will most likely affect ticket prices, which have already risen 40 percent between 2001-11, according to data from the National Association of Theatre Owners.

“If [theater chains] have to start adding security, they’re not going to take that on without passing it onto us,” says Anthony Mora, a media consultant in Los Angeles.

The Dark Knight Rises” is the third and potentially last chapter in the popular re-imagining of the Batman saga by director Christopher Nolan. Warner Bros. announced it would not release box office numbers throughout the weekend although Variety reported that the film earned $30.6 million from about 3,700 screens from the midnight screenings alone. Total box office through Sunday is predicted to end up close to $180 million, which will make it the most profitable opening weekend of all time after “The Avengers” earlier this summer.

Despite the windfall, Mr. Mora says that the studio will remain vulnerable in how it markets the film in the future because it is now “directly connected” to the massacre. “It’s not like [the killings] happened in a mall or near the theater. They happened in the theater when this movie was playing. You can’t separate them now,” he says.

Director Nolan issued a statement late Friday expressing “profound sorrow” for the victims and suggested the violence now corrupted the pleasure of going to the movies.

“I believe movies are one of the great American art forms and the shared experience of watching a story unfold on screen is an important and joyful pastime,” he wrote. “The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me.”

Mr. Salkowitz said films like “The Dark Knight Rises” are attractive because they invite an escape from real life violence.

“One of the great things about the fantasy space in comics and movies is that they were exempt from that,” he says. “Anything that punctures the mystique – especially in such an appalling and horrifying way – does damage that is likely to extend far beyond the bottom line.”

Colorado shooting: Picture emerges of chaotic scene, suspect James Holmes

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