NEW ROCHELLE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) — In response to shootings at movie theaters, a major U.S. cinema chain is now searching customers’ bags and backpacks.
Regal Entertainment Group acknowledges on its website the new searches, similar to those conducted at sporting events, is “not without flaws” and would inconvenience guests but provide better security. The theater chain plans to use its own employees for the searches.READ MORE: Puerto Rican Day Parade Goes Virtual For 2nd Straight Year
As CBS2’s Lou Young reported, the idea is getting mixed reviews.
“I would not have a problem with that at all,” said Glen Roy Walker, of New Rochelle, adding it would make him feel safer.
“I don’t really feel unsafe when I go to the movies right now, but I wouldn’t be opposed to it,” said Kim Kountouras, of Larchmont.
Knoxville, Tenn.-based Regal operates some 570 theaters around the country, including a large multiplex at New Roc City in New Rochelle.
New Rochelle police Commissioner Patrick Carroll dismisses the bag search idea as pure theater at the theater. He told Young any business really worried about security needs to conduct a full screening — searching bags alone really won’t help, he said.
“It’s only going to slow things up, and it may turn people off,” Carroll said. “I know people want to think there’s going to be some kind of security, and maybe it’s the effect that they’re looking for, that they’re doing something.”
Many moviegoers believe security is just a pretext.
“I really think it’s about their profitability,” said Erica Ali, of New Rochelle. “Rather than you spending 10 bucks on a popcorn and soda, if you have your bag of chips and a little Coke, you’re really not going to spend that money. I don’t think it’s really about safety.”READ MORE: Police Searching For Driver After Man Seriously Hurt In Queens Hit-And-Run
“It’s a bad idea,” added Andrew Abraham, of New Rochelle. “I think it’s an invasion of privacy.”
On its website, Regal says “security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America” and says that bags and backpacks are subject to inspection before entering.
“I applaud Regal Cinemas for becoming the first large theater chain to take the security of its customers seriously by requiring bag searches upon entry,” New York state Sen. Tony Avella, D-Queens, said in a news release Thursday. “Across the country, we have seen the amount of damage an armed individual can inflict in the enclosure of a movie theater. Now it is time for all theaters to follow Regal’s lead, adopt the policy, and move on to the next logical step in safeguarding the well-being of their consumers by using metal detectors.
Meanwhile, National Amusements Inc.’s Showcase chain, which runs about 30 theaters in the northeastern U.S., says on its website that it has banned backpacks and packages and reserves the right to search purses and bags. It says the policy, which began Aug. 7, will be in place “for the time being.”
AMC Theatres spokesman Ryan Noonan said, “We don’t comment on security measures publicly.” Other chains, including Cinemark and Carmike, did not respond to requests for comment.
Earlier this month, a man with a history of mental illness and armed with a pellet gun, hatchet and pepper spray attacked guests at a mostly empty movie theater in Antioch, Tennessee, before being shot dead by police.
Two weeks before that, a man shot and killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself during a screening of the movie “Trainwreck” at a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.
The latest attacks came the same month that Colorado theater shooter James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison by a jury for killing 12 and injuring 70 theatergoers three years ago at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
Last week, security was tight at the Los Angeles premiere of “Straight Outta Compton,” with invited guests made to navigate various barricades and pass through metal detectors before picking up their tickets.MORE NEWS: NYPD: Mother Throws 4-Week-Old Daughter, 2-Year-Old Son Out Window Before Jumping Out Herself
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