First there was the flame-haired James Holmes mowing down ‘Batman’ fans in Aurora. Then, more recently, John Houser stood up during a screening of ‘Trainwreck’, murdering two and injuring nine in Lafayette before putting out his own lights. Now comes Vincent Montano (above) to a screening of ‘Mad Max’ with his pellet gun, pepper spray and a hatchet. Exactly what his plan was is anyone’s guess at this point. The common thread: all three were certifiable (if not certified), with clear histories of mental illness. Or as Montano was described, they all “had significant psychiatric or psychological issues.” And then there are the venues they chose for their magnum opuses . . .
If we were living in an Oliver Stone film, a flawed but persistent hero would struggle against entrenched interests to discover that this has all been orchestrated by the greedy, malign powers at Netflix and Amazon in an effort to drive the movie consuming public from theaters and keep them streaming at home, safe in front of their flat screens. But here in the real world, a more likely explanation is that a couple of uniquely broken individuals chose to emulate Holmes’ psychotic plot in an effort to etch their own names into immortality.
But what about the rest of us? You can quote the infinitesimal odds of being involved in something like these incidents until you’re blue in the face, but with now three high profile events taking place in the dark while people munched their popcorn and sipped their ICEEs – two within the last two weeks – that can’t be good for the screening business.
What’s a theater operator to do? Rick Perry’s called for an end to gun-free zones, but it’s hard to see that, in and of itself, being reassuring enough for your average skittish gun muggle to want to buy a ticket. It may even have the opposite effect. And even if theaters do relax their carry policies, it would seem that at least some will also want to take more visible, active measures to give customers at least a superficial sense of safety (and limited potential liability).
Will that mean armed rent-a-cops in lobbies? The security theater (so to speak) of metal detectors and pat-downs as you enter your local cineplex? Will any of that be enough? And will the movie-going public be willing to endure searches just to sit through ‘Avengers: Age of Ultron’? What’s your take?