KWGN Channel 2 investigation: Have theaters increased security?

AURORA, Colo. — The deadly rampage at the Century 16 Movie Theaters in Aurora has raised questions about theater security and whether more should be done to protect movie-goers.

KWGN Channel 2 went undercover in theaters across the metro area to find out if security has been beefed-up.

We took hidden cameras inside Colorado’s major cinema chains including Century which is also Cinemark, United Artists which is also Regal, Landmark theaters and AMC.

We saw no security guards or any additional security measures at the Century/Cinemark theater in Lakewood.

But an employee noticed our producer shooting video in the hallway, she asked him, “Can I help you with something?” He said,” I’m just looking,” and apparently his answer was good enough and there were no more questions asked.

At the United Artists theater on Colorado Boulevard and I-25 in Denver, no sign of security guards but an employee did ask to check Heidi Hemmat’s purse, “Mind opening your bag real quick?” he said. But he didn’t actually search through it and when Heidi said, “You didn’t look through my bag very well,“ he didn’t respond.

We saw no security guards, nor were there any bag checks at the Landmark theater in Greenwood Village, or at the AMC theater in Aurora.

We thought we might find more security around the exit doors.

After all, suspect James Holmes reportedly left the theater through an emergency exit, propped the door open and then used that open door to get his weapons inside.

But when Heidi Hemmat went out the emergency exit at the Landmark Theater and did it again at the United Artists theater, no alarms sounded, and no one noticed.

We contacted each theater company and asked them about their security. AMC, where we found no additional security, sent us a statement which says in part, “We’ve reinforced our security procedure with our theater teams, which we cannot discuss in detail for obvious, safety reasons.”

Landmark said, “It has always been our policy not to disclose specifics in regards to security measures at our theaters and that policy still stands.”

Regal and United Artists sent us this statement: “We will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary.”

We found a group of well-spoken kids outside the United Artists theater in Denver. 12-year-old Sarah Frosch told us, “I hope this never happens again because it was so terrible.”

Her 9-year-old friend Melissa Weiss said, “At the beginning of the movie I was holding the kids’ hands because I didn’t want anything bad to happen.” Weiss was surprised she didn’t see more security, “There should be more security there.”

But other movie-goers like David Unter disagree. “It’s one of those fluke occurrences that you can’t ever prepare for or be ready for,” he said. Denver Grandmother Patricia Knight told us, “I don’t think we need armed guards or security guards at a movie theater. This is not an army camp and we don’t need to live like that.”

Century/Cinemark would not comment on our story.

The president of the National Association of Theater Owners, which represents most movie theater owners across the country told us he has been in contact with the Department of Homeland Security, and they are “re-evaluating” security.

If you have a story idea or news tip for Investigative Reporter Heidi Hemmat send her an email at Heidi.hemmat@kdvr.com