South Florida Batman fans went to cinemas Friday to see the latest
film, despite a mass shooting just after midnight at an Aurora, Colo.,
screening of the movie.
At the sold-out, 1:50 p.m. screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" at Fort Lauderdale's AutoNationIMAX theater, there was a moment of silence for the 12 dead and 59 injured victims.
Moviegoers were assured that law enforcement was on site at the downtown Fort Lauderdale complex at 401 S.W. Second Street. A public affairs announcement warned that backpacks and large purses were prohibited inside, for safety reasons.
Earlier in the day at another South Florida theater, it was not sold out and there was a light police presence.
At the Cinemark Paradise 24 theaters in Davie, Cynthia Colina and her son Joshua, 10, came from Miami Lakes for the day's first show at 9:30 a.m. and to see it in XD on a wall-to-wall screen.
Colina was unaware of the shootings that happened outside of Denver, where police say a gunman identified as James Holmes, 24, --wearing black clothing and a ballistic helmet, throat guard and vest, gas mask and gloves -- appeared at the front of one of the theaters, threw some type of gas or explosive device and began shooting.
In Aurora, where patrons were enjoying that classic summer ritual, a night at the movies, police said the carnage that happened even struck a victim who was in an adjoining theater.
"Oh my gosh," Colina said after learning of the mass shooting. "That's why I come to the early one, so the crazies don't come out."
Aurora Police said at an afternoon press conference that they received "hundreds" of 911 calls at 12:39 a.m. Mountain Time Friday that brought more than 200 officers to the scene.
Police said Holmes did not resist, and that an assault rifle; shotgun and two .40-caliber Glock handguns were recovered.
Motives for the accused shooter were not revealed at a press conference that was carried live on national TV.
His residence in Aurora was rigged with trip wires and possible explosive devices that were being analyzed by bomb technicians, police said. Neighbors in five buildings were evacuated.
An FBI spokesman said Friday, "at this point, there is no nexis to terrorism."
Area malls near Aurora were closed, officials said, even though they emphasized the shootings were an isolated event and a second suspect was not being sought.
The victims were taken to at least six area hospitals, police said.
"This is one of the most horrific nights I've ever had to work," Comilla Sasson, who works at University of Colorado Hospital where 22 patients ranging in age from three months to 45 years-old arrived in private cars, police cars and ambulances, told Reuters.
Colina, in Davie, said she was not afraid to bring her boy to see the film.
"Crime's gonna happen, whether it's this or any movie," she said.
Friends and Gamestop co-workers Jason Corbo, 25 of Miramar, and Jesse Martin, 24, of Davie, also arrived early to see "The Dark Knight Rises" at the Davie Cinemark location, where 32 screenings of the movie were to happen through midnight on both Friday and Saturday.
"We had to see it first thing, because all of the people at work would be talking about it and would ruin it," said Martin, who wore a light blue T-shirt with the yellow and black oval Batman symbol on his chest that matched designs on his sneakers.
The men are big fans of the Batman character, to the point where Martin said he has one of his home bathrooms decorated with comic books and other memorabilia about the flying masked protector of Gotham City.
They were not about to let the horrific news keep them from seeing the new film.
"It's sad, knowing you go to the movies and some nut job starts shooting," Corbo said. "It was like one of the Joker's goons."
Martin said, "My guess is, he knew there would be a crowd, with no security. They were sitting ducks."
The men said they were not worried for their own safety.
"What could happen at 9:30?" Martin said.
Said Corbo, "Every day you step outside your house, something bad could happen. Live your life to the fullest, every single day."
Fans trickled in to attend the early show, and there weren't long lines at the Davie location that some ticket buyers said kept them away Thursday night.
A Davie Police marked patrol car was in the movie theater's huge parking lot at 8:45 a.m. Friday and returned beneath the cinema's portico a half hour later, as part of his regular beat, the officer said.
On Friday afternoon, the agency said there would be more officers on patrol for evening showings.
Aurora Police said Holmes did not have a record.
TheU.S. Department of Defensesaid in a press release that Holmes had not served in the military, but that some of his victims included an injured sailor and another who was unaccounted for on Friday afternoon. Two airmen were also hurt in the incident.
The movie industry thought "Batmania" would happen around the predicted blockbuster, and the latest installment of the franchise is showing all over South Florida and the U.S.
On Friday, Cinemark USA's chief exective officer and president, Timothy Warner, spoke from Texas, where the company is based.
"We're very saddened today at Cinemark for the tragic actions that were taken in Aurora, Colorado by a deranged gunman," Warner told Dallas/Fort Worth television station WFAA. "We're also very, very grateful for the quick reponse of the police department and the emergency response teams that undoubtedly saved a lot of lives by their quick response."
He said the company did not immediately know much more than what was being reported in the breaking news story.
"As we get more information we will issue additional press statements," Warner said. "Right now, our full focus and concerns are on the victims, their families and our employees."
Another large theater chain with a big South Florida presence is Regal Entertainment Group, which has "The Dark Knight Rises" screenings scheduled in Boca Raton; Delrary Beach; Hollywood; Pembroke Pines; Coral Springs; Miami Beach and other cities.
Regal has 519 U.S. theaters in 37 states and Washington, D.C., and released a statement on its website that also expressed concern for the shooting victims and their families. It pledged to "monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary."
In France, Reuters reported that the Paris premiere of the movie was cancelled Friday because of the mass shooting, event organizers said.
Workmen were seen clearing away barriers that were set up for the event at a cinema on the city's famous boulevard, the Champs-Elysees.
Reuters and Sun Sentinel Researcher Barbara Hijek and Staff Writer Juan Ortega contributed to this report.
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