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Security increased at movies following shootings

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Mary Altaffer / AP

Police officers are seen outside a movie theater screening “The Dark Knight Rises,” Friday, July 20, 2012, in New York.

Batman shooting

An Aurora Police officer talks on his radio outside of the Century 16 theater at Aurora Mall where as many as 14 people were killed and many injured at a shooting at the Century 16 movie theatre in Aurora, Colo., Friday, July 20, 2012. Launch slideshow »

Some theaters and police around the U.S. stepped up security at daytime showings of the new Batman movie Friday after the massacre in Colorado, and while many fans were undeterred by the tragedy, others were nervous about going to see the film.

Two police officers were stationed outside the AMC theater in New York's Times Square, which had showings of the Batman movie beginning every 20 minutes. Later in the day, the officers gave way to a police cruiser that was parked out front with an officer in it.

Jimmy Baker, 40, of Harlem had been waiting since about 9:45 a.m. for the 12:50 p.m. show. "I just felt bad for the people that had to be traumatized by this entire event," he said. But "I didn't feel like it had any kind of effect on me. ... I'm just here to enjoy a good movie."

Stephanie Suriel, 21, of Brooklyn, waiting outside the same theater, said her mother was slightly concerned about her going to see the film. But "I'm not nervous at all because I really want to see that movie."

Still, just to be safe, she said, "I'm going to sit in the back."

The New York City Police Department was posting officers at about 40 theaters around the city that were showing the film. The increased security was a precaution against potential copycat shooters, and also meant to reassure moviegoers.

"We're doing this to raise the comfort level," Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said. "We'd certainly encourage everybody to go about their business."

In Washington, the Homeland Security Department held a conference call with officials from the commercial, entertainment and shopping mall industries to discuss what security measures they could take to prevent something like this from happening again.

At the Regal Gallery Place multiplex in downtown Washington, moviegoers trickled into an 11 a.m. showing. Theater employees searched patrons' bags and purses while taking their tickets.

"I'm believing that it's not related so much to the movie," Steve Glaude, a 57-year-old federal employee, said of the shooting. "The movie may have been a trigger. It may not have been. We don't know. I don't think it was hero or villain emulation."

In Aurora, Colo., a gunman wearing a gas mask set off a gas canister and fired into a crowded theater in the Denver suburb at a midnight opening of the movie, killing at least 12 people.

Christine Cooley, who works for the University of Florida at a campus installation near Tampa, Fla., said she and her 15-year-old daughter were stunned to wake up to the news. Cooley said her daughter has sworn off going to the movies.

"It's tainted the movie completely for her," Cooley said. "It's summertime. That's a big movie time for teenagers. That movie is off the list now. Movie theaters in general are off her summer to-do list because of that."

Cooley said she tried to explain that the shooting was random and not an indication of security at theaters in general, "but I can see where she's coming from. Why put yourself in harm's way?"

At the United Artists Riverview Stadium 17 in Philadelphia, a steady stream of people headed in for morning showings of "The Dark Knight Rises." Staff members said that there was extra security, but that that was normal for big movies — and not because of the shooting in Colorado.

Neal Mates, 38, a professed "film geek," said: "Shootings can happen anywhere. ... I think it's silly to blame the film."

Executives of St. Louis-based Wehrenberg Theatres had discussions before dawn with managers of its 15 cinemas in Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa, spokeswoman Kelly Hoskins said. She said the company feels comfortable with security already in place and plans no changes. She said she hopes other theater chains don't panic and cancel showings.

"That just wouldn't be good," she said. "It's like a terrorist attack — you don't want them to think we're all scared."

The National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement that its members are "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures." AMC Theaters said it is "actively working with local law enforcement in communities throughout the nation and under the circumstances, we are reaching out to all of our theaters to review our safety and security procedures."

Associated Press writers Alex Katz and Christy Lemire in New York City, Eileen Sullivan and Ben Nuckols in Washington, Patrick Walters in Philadelphia and Jim Suhr in St. Louis contributed to this report.

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