In the wake of today’s unthinkable tragedy in Colorado, a few people I’ve spoken to have brought up a newfound uneasiness they now associate with going to the movie theater. It’s understandable. After 9/11, the psyche of flying changed from, “Gee, I hope the headsets are free,” to “Man, I hope someone doesn’t have any C-4 in their small intestine.” I don’t know one person who, sitting in a multiplex in the weeks and months ahead (especially if they’re seeing The Dark Knight Rises), won’t look out in front of them, and imagine what it was like for those poor souls in Theater 9 as a masked gunman opened fire. I know I will.
The question is, what can and should be done? The NYPD are already providing extra security at TDKR screenings this weekend, officially to discourage copycats, but really to soothe our tested New York nerves. But what about next weekend? And the one after that? Will it be possible, from now on, to look out into the audience before you, and not see a bunch of sitting ducks? The National Association of Theater Owners have pledged to review moviegoing “security procedures,” a quick task, considering there currently aren’t any (unless you’re at an advanced screening of The Dark Knight Rises, in which case you may as well be meeting the president). The tragedy in Colorado might change that. We could be looking into a crystal ball of metal detectors and full-body pat downs at the multiplex. And if so, how do we regulate it? Will The Expendables 7 require anal probes, while the munchkins seeing Madagascar 12 get nothing more than a wink and a lolly?
I’ve always wondered why boarding even a tiny prop jet calls for dystopian security measures, but you can hop on a packed coach bus without so much as a bag search. A Greyhound can travel from New York City to Washington D.C with a motherload of explosives in its belly, and we’d be none the wiser. If anything, today proved that real safety is pure fallacy, and that we can now add the movies to the growing list of places where a feeling of vulnerability burbles up. A friend of mine asked me today if I think going to the movies has been ruined. That’s probably not the question we should be asking ourselves, but it does make me think about what kind of a world we live in when our most popular form of escapism is now also a reminder of just how shitty things can be.
UPDATE: AMC and Regal Cinemas have implemented a ban on fake weapons and costumes that “make other guests feel uncomfortable.” It’s happening.