Monday 24 November 2014

Families divided as cinema reopens

Published 18/01/2013 | 05:10

The Century cinema in Aurora, Colorado where a gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens of others (AP/Ed Andrieski)

The Colorado cinema where 12 people were killed and dozens injured in a shooting rampage nearly six months ago reopened with a remembrance ceremony and a private screening of the fantasy film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for survivors.

But for some victims, the pain was still too much, the idea too horrific.

Several families boycotted what they called a callous public relations ploy by the Aurora cinema's owner, Cinemark. They claimed the Texas-based company did not ask them what should happen to the building and Cinemark emailed them an invitation to the reopening just two days after they struggled through Christmas without their loved ones.

"It was boilerplate Hollywood - 'Come to our movie screening'," said Anita Busch, whose cousin, college student Micayla Medek, 23, died during the massacre.

But Pierce O'Farrill, who was wounded three times in the shooting, returned and immediately walked to the back door where he remembered the gunman emerging. "The last time I saw (the gunman) was right here," he said as he stood near the exit door. "It's important for me to come here and sit in the same seat that I was sitting in. It's all part of the healing process, I guess."

James Holmes, a former neuroscience PhD student, is charged with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, over the July 20 shootings at the former Century 16 - now called the Century Aurora. A judge has ordered Holmes to stand trial, but he will not enter a plea until March.

Dozens of first responders to the massacre joined survivors at the multiplex for the reopening ceremony. "We as a community have not been defeated," Aurora mayor Steve Hogan said. "We are a community of survivors. We will not let this tragedy define us."

In addition to the Hobbit screening, theatre placards featured Trouble With the Curve, Cloud Atlas, and other films for the weekend.

Victims have filed at least three lawsuits against Cinemark Holdings, alleging it should have provided security for the midnight showing of the latest Batman film, The Dark Knight Rises, and that an exit door used by the gunman to get his weapons and re-enter should have had an alarm. In court papers, Cinemark says the tragedy was "unforeseeable and random".

"We certainly recognise all the different paths that people take to mourn, the different paths that people take to recover from unimaginable, incomprehensible loss," Colorado governor John Hickenlooper said at the ceremony in a half-full cinema. "Some wanted this theatre to reopen. Some didn't. Certainly both answers are correct."

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