NEW YORK - Officials have confirmed that there will be a police presence at Valley movie theaters this weekend, following a shooting rampage at a Colorado screening of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Phoenix Police Chief Daniel Garcia at a Friday news conference said the department is increasing its presence at theaters across Phoenix, and officers are being told to remain in the area surrounding the theaters as well as inside.
Garcia said security will also be increased at other large venues as a precaution.
A Tempe police detective previously told ABC15 that departments across the Valley will be following a similar protocol.
Theaters and police around the U.S. stepped up security at daytime showings of the new Batman movie Friday after the massacre in Colorado, and while many fans were undeterred by the tragedy, others were nervous about going to see the film.
At the start of a Friday 9pm showing at Tempe Marketplace, only 3/4 of the theater was full.
Patrons said they did not see an increase in security, but didn't think there was need for additional officers anyway.
Two uniformed officers were seen in the courtyard watching people enter and exit the theater.
Harkins Theatres issued a statement Friday morning saying Harkins "is grieving with the community of Aurora...and the victims of this horrific random act." A theater spokeswoman went on to say they "will continue to monitor the situation and adjust security precautions as necessary."
Across the country, security has continued to be of paramount concern. Two police officers were stationed outside the AMC theater in New York's Times Square, which had showings of the "The Dark Night Rises" beginning every 20 minutes. Later in the day, the officers gave way to a police cruiser that was parked out front with an officer in it.
Jimmy Baker, 40, of Harlem had been waiting since about 9:45 a.m. for the 12:50 p.m. show. "I just felt bad for the people that had to be traumatized by this entire event," he said. But "I didn't feel like it had any kind of effect on me. ... I'm just here to enjoy a good movie."
Stephanie Suriel, 21, of Brooklyn, waiting outside the same theater, said her mother was slightly concerned about her going to see the film. But "I'm not nervous at all because I really want to see that movie."
Still, just to be safe, she said: "I'm going to sit in the back."
At the Regal Gallery Place multiplex in downtown Washington, moviegoers trickled into an 11 a.m. showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Theater employees searched patrons' bags and purses while taking their tickets.
"I'm believing that it's not related so much to the movie," Steve Glaude, a 57-year-old federal employee, said of the shooting. "The movie may have been a trigger. It may not have been. We don't know. I don't think it was hero or villain emulation."
In Aurora, Colo., a gunman wearing a gas mask set off a gas canister and fired into a crowded theater in the Denver suburb at a midnight opening of the movie, killing 12 people and injuring 59 others , authorities said.
Christine Cooley, who works for the University of Florida at a campus installation near Tampa, Fla., said she and her 15-year-old daughter were stunned to wake up to the news. Cooley said her daughter has sworn off going to the movies.
"It's tainted the movie completely for her," Cooley said. "It's summertime. That's a big movie time for teenagers. That movie is off the list now. Movie theaters in general are off her summer to-do list because of that."
Cooley said she tried to explain that the shooting was random and not an indication of security at theaters in general, "but I can see where she's coming from. Why put yourself in harm's way?"
At the United Artists Riverview Stadium 17 in Philadelphia, a steady stream of people headed in for morning showings of "The Dark Knight Rises." Staff members said that there was extra security, but that that was normal for big movies -- and not because of the shooting in Colorado.
Neal Mates, 38, a professed "film geek," said: "Shootings can happen anywhere. ... I think it's silly to blame the film."
Executives of St. Louis-based Wehrenberg Theatres had discussions before dawn with managers of its 15 cinemas in Illinois, Missouri, Minnesota and Iowa, spokeswoman Kelly Hoskins said. She said the company feels comfortable with security already in place and plans no changes. She said she hopes other theater chains don't panic and cancel showings.
"That just wouldn't be good," she said. "It's like a terrorist attack -- you don't want them to think we're all scared."
The National Association of Theater Owners said in a statement that its members are "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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