Craig residents, movie fans react to Aurora tragedy |

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Craig residents, movie fans react to Aurora tragedy

The staff at West Theatre in Craig prepares a soda and popcorn during Friday’s screening of “The Dark Knight Rises.” During a midnight screening of the movie in Aurora, an assailant unleashed gas canisters and gunfire on the audience, killing 12 people and injuring 58 others.

Steamboat Today: Steamboat police increase patrols in wake of Aurora shooting

By Nicole Inglis and John F. Russell

Steamboat Springs — The previews finished and the lights dimmed inside the 1 p.m. showing of the “Dark Knight Rises” at Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas on Friday afternoon.

It was then that David Elrod, a Boulder resident visiting Steamboat Springs, noticed a police officer walking through the theater.

Elrod said he and several other moviegoers thanked the police officer, and a few even clapped.

“The whole thing kind of choked me up,” Elrod said after the film ended. “I was just touched by how our world has changed because of this.”

In the wake of the movie theater shooting early Friday in Aurora, which The Associated Press reported left 12 dead and 59 wounded, Elrod wasn’t deterred from attending the finale in the Batman series, the same film at which a shooter opened fire the night before.

He said he was grateful for the police presence at the theater and crossed the parking lot after the movie to shake Steamboat Springs Police Department officer Evan Driscoll’s hand.

Driscoll explained that he was at the theater to help the public feel more comfortable.

“Given the shootings in Aurora, we have stepped up enforcement by conducting extra patrol at the movie theater,” he said Friday.

He said that police do not perceive any local threat.

“We want people to feel safe in Steamboat and at the movie theaters,” he said. “We’ll be making sure we’re walking into theaters, checking doors, checking the outside of the theater.”

He said officers will be stopping by both theaters intermittently, similar to the way they conduct bar checks in the evenings.

The manager at Wildhorse, where the “Dark Knight Rises” is showing locally, referred questions to Metropolitan Theaters President David Corwin.

On Friday, Corwin issued a news release that expressed the company’s sadness about the Aurora shooting.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families,” Corwin wrote in the release. “Guests and staff safety is a top priority, and we are reviewing security procedures and working with local law enforcement to ensure a safe environment at our theaters.”

When reached Friday for additional comment, Corwin said local managers were asked to reach out to local law enforcement.

Metropolitan Theatres operates 18 theaters in the Western United States and Canada.

He said that the theater’s schedule will not change in the wake of the shooting but that every film is assessed each week and times are adjusted based on how the movie is doing.

“To be honest, I don’t know if anyone knows the impact this will have,” he said. “I hope people will recognize this was an isolated incident by a deranged individual. We feel deeply sorry for everyone affected.

“It provides an incident in which we can point out to our people and say, ‘Hey, you never know; you have to be mindful of what’s going on.’”

Craig — In the days leading up to Friday, Craig resident Shane Hadley was heavily anticipating the release of one of the summer movie season’s biggest events. — In the days leading up to Friday, Craig resident Shane Hadley was heavily anticipating the release of one of the summer movie season's biggest events.

— In the days leading up to Friday, Craig resident Shane Hadley was heavily anticipating the release of one of the summer movie season's biggest events.

Like many movie fans, Hadley couldn't wait to learn the fate of one of the most beloved fictitious characters in "The Dark Knight Rises," the third installment of the Batman trilogy.

Once the big day came, he was horrified to learn of an incident that would forever be tied to the saga and leave him and countless others thinking of those who would never get the chance to view the film in its entirety.

At a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora's Century 16 movie theater, the excitement of a new Batman feature turned to terror when an armor-clad gunman walked into the theater, set off gas canisters, and proceeded to fire his weapons around the theater and at audience members, killing 12 and injuring 58 others, according to the Associated Press.

The response worldwide has evoked statements from world leaders such as President Barack Obama, who has visited Colorado since the shooting, Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, Great Britain's Queen Elizabeth II and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper.

All offered condolences to victims and families. "Coloradans have a remarkable ability to support one another in times of crisis. This is one of those times," Hickenlooper said in a news release.

The cast and crew of "The Dark Knight Rises" offered sympathies about the shootings as well. Director Christopher Nolan issued a statement about the rampage, expressing his sorrow about the people who were only there "to watch a movie."

"The movie theatre is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me," Nolan said. "Nothing any of us can say could ever adequately express our feelings for the innocent victims of this appalling crime, but our thoughts are with them and their families."

The same sentiments were present in the Craig community Friday night as moviegoers waited in line at West Theatre to buy a ticket for the same film, some quietly discussing the mass shooting that had happened only 200 miles from their home.

"It's just a terribly sad situation, and it says a lot for the state of affairs in this country," Craig resident Nakos Georgiou said. "You'd like to think we live in a smaller community where that kind of thing wouldn't happen, but who knows? There's no guarantees. It's just like 9/11, and it makes everybody paranoid."

Erik Groves, of Grand Junction, said on Friday the news of the shooting shocked him partly because of the location. During his time in college, Groves lived only four blocks from Century 16 and saw numerous movies at the theater.

"It's a nice theater, and it's not ghetto or anything like that, so it kind of freaked us out a little," he said.

Groves and his 11-year-old son, Ethan, in town for the weekend to visit family and attend a sporting event in Steamboat Springs, bought tickets for the animated "Ice Age: Continental Drift," instead of the PG-13 "Dark Knight Rises," but the decision had little to do with the shooting.

"His mom doesn't really like him to watch violent movies, but I'll probably still see it soon," Groves said.

Groves said he thinks the graphic content of movies such as "The Dark Knight Rises" and its predecessors likely didn't have much to do with the suspect's actions, even though the shooter may have been mimicking gunplay in the movie.

"It's not the movie's fault that you have some nut job who decides to be really stupid," he said. "That's like blaming a gun every time someone goes out and shoots somebody. There's a lot of crazy people out there."

Hadley said he believed the gunman's main motivation was notoriety, citing the shooting suspect's body armor and quick surrender as examples of someone who wanted to be caught and live to enjoy the attention.

"I wish they had never released the name of that guy because he wants to be infamous, and he's getting what he wants right now because of our American media," he said. "I just wanted to know the names of the victims so we could remember them."

Police released the names of the victims Saturday, revealing that the youngest fatality was a 6-year-old girl, while the youngest of the injured parties was only three months old.

Candlelight vigils for the victims have been hosted at the site of the tragedy, which has already been noted as one of the deadliest mass shootings in recent history.

Box office figures for "The Dark Knight Rises" are expected to alter negatively as a result of the shooting, though West Theatre manager Debbie Winder said the turnout for the opening show Friday night was still strong.

"I wondered if people would stay away because of all that, but it all depends on the day," she said. "That whole thing is so sad."

Steamboat's Wildhorse Stadium Cinemas, which is also screening the movie, brought in police security Friday at the encouragement of owner Metropolitan Theatres.

Other chains have also taken to stricter rules for patrons, such as AMC Theatres, which announced Saturday in a press release that it would not allow moviegoers entry while wearing face-concealing masks or carrying fake weapons.

"This guy has just really messed with our pop culture," Hadley said. "Now kids can't even dress like Batman or Harry Potter or Spider-Man. All because of one piece of dirt."