Aurora Theater Reopens, Angering Some Family Members Of Victims

Less than six months after a lone gunman shot up a theater at the Century Aurora 16 theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring at least 58, the movie house is slated to reopen. Several family members of victims, after being invited to participate in reopening events, wrote a letter to Cinemark, owner of the theater, expressing their shock as the company's lack of sensitivity. Audie Cornish speaks with reporter Ryan Parker who has followed these events for the Denver Post.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

The mass shooting in Aurora, Colorado, in July of last year left 12 people dead and 58 injured after a lone gunman opened fire on an early morning screening of "The Dark Knight Rises." Now the movie chain's owner, Cinemark, plans to re-open the theater later this month, a move that has outraged victims' families. . has outraged victims' families. Ryan Parker of The Denver Post was one of the first reporters on the scene after the shooting, and he's been covering the story ever since.

Ryan, there's been a lot of talk about what to do with the specific theater, theater number nine, where the shooting took place. And in the end, what was decided?

RYAN PARKER: We're being told that construction will combine theater eight and theater ndnine where the shooting took place. That will become an enormous XD theater with wall-to-wall, ceiling-to-floor screen. As far as any memorial goes, a plaque, a statue, nothing has been reported. We do know that on January 17th, the reopening will occur for the victims' families and for others who would wish to attend who were invited. That's being called a special evening of remembrance. That's also the evening and the invitation that infuriated family members of victims, saying that they would not want to return to the, quote and unquote, "slaughter house," is what they're calling the theater now.

CORNISH: When we last talked about this story, all of Aurora had been asked actually to weigh in, in a survey. Is this the result of that input? What was the result of that poll?

PARKER: That is correct. It seemed that for the most part, the residents of Aurora did want to see that the movie theater reopen, and Mayor Steve Hogan said that he believed that it was a step in the right direction as far as the healing process goes for the community, and he supports it fully. He and Governor John Hickenlooper will be attending the reopening ceremony that will be occurring on January 17th.

CORNISH: And as we mentioned, some of the victims' families have written the management of Cinemark and are calling for a boycott of what they call, quote, "the killing field of our children." What are some of the other issues that the families raised here?

PARKER: Well, one of the families that I spoke to yesterday said that they were outraged at the fact that Cinemark had extended no other communication to them, no condolences, nothing, other than this invitation, and they felt that that was very insulting. They felt that if the chain really wanted to do something to show compassion, what they would do is they would take a percentage of the profits and they would put it toward victims' funds, helping victims, victims' families and so forth.

CORNISH: You mentioned some of kind of fund, but are there outstanding legal issues against Cinemark?

PARKER: Yes, there are. There are a number of lawsuits that are ongoing as we speak concerning the security and staff training that night.

CORNISH: Now, is there a consensus on this issue among the families about what should happen to the building?

PARKER: You know, there's really not. I spoke to a few families yesterday who were very much against the reopening and the reopening ceremony that they were invited to, but then again, today, I received a letter from a different family member who read my piece yesterday, and they wrote that they support the theater reopening, that they understand that it's a process of the healing, and that they're going to attend it, and that they hope that their attendance will show the community that they need to be strong, and that they can't be afraid to go to theaters anymore.

They can't be afraid to enjoy theaters, and they can't be allowing folks who would do such an atrocity to win almost. The gentleman said that although the seat next to him will be vacant because he will be holding it for his slain son, he'll have a hand to hold if anybody needs to be comforted.

CORNISH: Ryan Parker is a reporter with The Denver Post. Ryan, thank you so much for speaking with us.

PARKER: Thank you very much for having me.

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