Eight dollars is a spectacularly fine price
for a two-hour ride in a time machine.
A reprieve from reality.
An escape into the lives and emotions of people
who never have to reach for the right thing
We are, of course, talking about the movies,
where we can cry and laugh in the dark, ostensibly
for film characters, but perhaps just as much
for ourselves as we connect what’s happening
on screen to our own passions and pain. Maybe
this is why movies get so much better as we
Theatre manager Kim Daniel and I delved into
this. She’s in the business of getting people
to love movies. I make it my business to love
We agree with the conventional wisdom that the
morning massacre at an Aurora, Colo., premiere
of “The Dark Knight Rises” is one of those awful
episodes Americans call an “isolated incident.”
Kids still enroll at the University of Iowa
even though a deranged former graduate student
shot five students there and then killed himself
in November 1991. I can vividly recall being
in the newsroom as that story broke. Just a
few weeks ago, I was in Westroads Mall in Omaha,
Neb., where a gunman opened fire in December
of 2007, killing eight people.
We drive the same streets and highways, most
all of us, where people we know perished in
Resiliency is at the core of the successful
But with the movie-house horrors of Aurora,
I’m not so sure. Can going to the movies be
the same again?
“That scares me to death, obviously,” Daniel
The Fridley Theatre she manages in Carroll had
a strong turnout for the midnight Friday showing
of “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s the film the
movie industry is banking on for a bright summer
box office. Nothing Hollywood sends our direction
this season is expected to be bigger.
“No, there’s not,” Daniel said. “This is it.”
I’ve been looking forward to seeing the movie,
and as I pulled into town around 11:30 p.m.
on the premiere night from covering an event
outside of our community, I considered joining
the line for “Dark Knight Rises.” But fatigue
stole the late evening, and I headed to the
office and home.
Daniel reports that “Dark Knight Rises” is a
wonderfully entertaining movie. The Wall Street
Journal tells me this, too. So does movie reviewer
Michael Phillips of The Chicago Tribune. But
can we watch it without thinking that, “OK,
now, about this point, 30 minutes or so into
the movie, the Colorado gunman burst into a
theater and shot 70 people, killing 12,” especially
as one of the first scenes in “Dark Night Rises”
is a eulogy.
Can we leave July 2012 and all its attendant
facts of life at the door in exchange for popcorn?
“Now, where in America can you go where someone
isn’t carrying a gun or wanting to hurt someone
else?” Daniel asks.
In the reaction-angle stories proliferating
in the aftermath of the rampage, we learn that
movie theaters are likely going to educate theatergoers
and ticket takers about evacuation and other
emergency procedures associated with all sort
of potential mayhem.
“I think I’ll have to do more training with
my employees,” Daniel said. “The confusion I
have is: How can you possibly know what to do?”
Texas Republican Congressman Louie Gohmert has
some advice for movie fans. Go to the show with
enough pocket space to carry the cash needed
to up-size your soda and stash a reserve of
ammunition, should you have to return fire at
a mad shooter.
“Well it does make me wonder, you know with
all those people in the theater, was there nobody
that was carrying that could’ve stopped this
guy more quickly?” Gohmert said in a radio interview
on the day of the shooting, as bodies of the
Aurora dead still lay in the theater and police
cleared the crime scene. “I mean in Tyler, Texas,
we had — my hometown — we had a shooter come
in over a domestic matter, and just start shooting
people. And it was a guy with a concealed carry
— he got killed, but his shooting at this guy
caused him to run and no doubt saved a lot of
lives. He was a real hero.”
What if someone would have fired back in Colorado,
introducing crossfire into the chaos? Would
we have more or fewer dead? Would the battle
have steeled the resolve of the killer, motivating
him to unleash more rounds into the seats? How
many accidental theater shootings would we have
as edgy patrons, thinking they see murder instead
of hormone-inspired teenage pranks and hijincks,
shoot fellow moviegoers over the misunderstanding?
How would the hero and villain math shake out
if we were all armed at the movies?
As it stands, you can take a gun into many theatres
for protection as long as you are permitted.
Thousands of people in Iowa have such permits.
This paper even ran the names of people with
such permits in Polk County.
Businesses can post signs banning guns from
their premises, but if you bring a weapon with
the correct paperwork behind it, their only
recourse is to ask you to leave under threat
of trespass. And, as Daniel noted, someone intent
on killing 50 people isn’t going to worry about
a trespass charge or policy violation.
“I believe it’s not going to stop someone who
wants to carry one,” she said. CV
caption: Douglas Burns is a fourth-generation
Iowa newspaperman who writes for The Carroll
Daily Times Herald and offers columns for Cityview.