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Some local theaters up security; patrons unafraid

Chip Ellis
Movie-goers file out of Marquee Cinemas in Southridge on Friday. People there to see "The Dark Knight Rises" said they felt safe at the theater, despite the shooting in Colorado at a midnight premiere of the movie.
Chip Ellis Kathy Boland (left) of Charleston and Trici Boland of Williamsburg, Va., didn't yet know about the shooting in Colorado but said as they left the theater after watching "The Dark Knight Rises" Friday afternoon that they wouldn't have been worried anyway.
Chip Ellis Kevin Lynch of Charleston and his 10-year-old son, Garrett, head into Marquee Cinemas to see "The Dark Knight Rises" on Friday.
Chip Ellis Matthew McCormick (left) of South Charleston and Michael Lanham of Charleston said they were scared to come to the theater because of the Colorado shooting but wouldn't miss seeing "The Dark Knight Rises."
Chip Ellis Movie-goers enter Marquee Cinemas in Southridge Friday afternoon. Most said they weren't worried about their safety following the shooting in Colorado.

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- In the wake of a deadly shooting at a movie premiere in Colorado, Mike Davis said he wasn't afraid to go to the movie theater in Southridge on Friday.

As the Mink Shoals resident headed into the building, he said the killings in Colorado are an example of people "out of control."

"I feel pretty safe here," Davis said. "I don't think there's crazies here -- but you never can tell."

Some movie theaters in the Charleston area had beefed up surveillance Friday, taking extra precautions after a shooter in Colorado gunned down an audience at the midnight premiere of the Batman movie early Friday morning. But most people filtering in and out of Marquee Cinemas in

Southridge on Friday afternoon said they weren't worried about something similar happening to them.

Taylor Wilson, general manager at Great Escape Nitro, said the theater brought in extra staff members Friday to monitor people coming to the movies in costume.

Wilson said employees kept an eye out for anything "questionable," such as outfits that could hide something. That's common practice at the theater for weekends or big movie events, he said, but it was especially relevant considering Friday's tragedy.

"There is a higher awareness, of course, today," he said.

At Park Place Stadium Cinemas in Charleston, there are always police officers on the weekends to make customers and staff more comfortable, said Derek Hyman, president of the Greater Huntington Theater Corporation, which owns the Charleston theater.

The movie theater doesn't usually have officers present for midnight releases, but Hyman said maybe it would for the next few showings because of the situation in Colorado.

But he said he didn't expect a need for increased security.

"Quite frankly, I think there's no chance that it's going to happen," he said, talking about the likelihood of a shooting occurring in a Charleston theater.

Marquee Cinemas in Southridge directed all questions to its corporate office in Beckley, and multiple messages to the office weren't returned Friday afternoon. Patrons of the Southridge theater, however, said they didn't notice any ramped-up safety measures.

Kevin Lynch of Charleston took his 10-year-old son, Garrett, to the movies with him Friday. Lynch used to live in Baltimore, and he said he felt safe in West Virginia because it has a different type of people, whom he described as being "more personable."

Lynch said he planned to sit near the aisle during the movie, though, just in case.

Movie-goer Kathy Boland of Charleston didn't yet know about the Colorado shooting as she left the theater after watching "The Dark Knight Rises," but said she wasn't concerned.

"I trust God's taking care of me," she said.

Boland said she couldn't start thinking about all the bad things that could happen to her or she'd ruin her life. She had one word for living that way: "Misery."

Michael Lanham of Charleston and Matthew McCormick of South Charleston said they were a little scared coming to Marquee Cinemas on Friday, but they couldn't miss seeing "The Dark Knight Rises."

As they discussed the shooter's motives and speculated about his mental condition, Lanham said putting metal detectors in the movie theater could solve some problems.

McCormick agreed and said that, eventually, people probably will have to get screened before they enter a grocery store, but that won't stop him from going out in public.

"You can't live your life in fear," McCormick said.

Reach Alison Matas at alison.matas@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5100.


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