Some shooting victims attend Aurora theater reopening event
New lobby of Century Aurora theaters. Jan. 17, 2013
AURORA, Colo. — What used to be known as the Century 16 theaters in Aurora is back open for business Thursday for the first time since a gunman opened fire in a packed movie theater almost six months ago.
The theater’s owner, Cinemark, spent more than $1 million renovating the site where 12 people were killed and another 70 were hurt on opening night for the new Batman movie, The Dark Knight Rises July 20.
Theater 9, where the shooting spree took place, is now an X-D digital auditorium. Theater 8, where some people were wounded by bullets that came through the walls, is called Auditorium H.
Gone are the haunting brightly colored neon lights on the outside of the building. A new mural is on the theater’s big sign. The new name of the facility is Century Aurora.
Thursday is an evening of remembrance for victims of the terrible crimes that happened there.
It was an invitation-only private event for victims, families, first responders, officials and volunteers. 1,600 tickets were distributed. A screening of The Hobbit followed speeches which began at 6 p.m.
The event was not attended by some people who lost loved ones in the shooting. They say the company has been unresponsive to their needs. They refer to the theater site as “the killing field of our children.”
Victims have filed at least three federal lawsuits against Cinemark alleging the company should have provided security for the movie premiere. The company says the tragedy was “unforeseeable and random.”
“I can understand why a lot of people wouldn’t want to come tonight, but for me, I kind of see it as a sense of closure,” says Adam Witt, who escaped from Theater 9 along with his wife when the shooting began.
Marcus Weaver also escaped, but he was shot. His girlfriend, Rebecca Wingo, did not survive. Weaver hopes it brings some closure.
“It’s kind of paying respect to her by going. We went to the movie together and just, you know, I still think about her. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about her,” Weaver says.
For many families who lost loved ones in the shooting the invitation to attend Thursday night’s remembrance and a movie was an insult.
Tom Teves’ son Alex was killed in Theater 9. “The only time they’ve [Cinemark] contacted us is when they wanted us to become basically a public relations, you know, prop so that they can feel better about opening the theater.”
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper spoke. Archbishop Samuel Aquila will offer the closing prayer at the event. Cinemark CEO Tim Warner also delivered some remarks, essentially the first statements from the company since the shooting happened.
The theater complex opens to the general public Friday with free movies all weekend long.
Mayor Hogan says the city did surveys in the community and found an overwhelming desire to reopen the theaters. Discussions about what to do with the site also included tearing it down and building a memorial.
Cinemark has not released what movies will be shown this weekend or any show times.