AURORA, Colo.: The Colorado theater where 12 people were killed and dozens injured in a shooting rampage nearly six months ago reopened Thursday with a remembrance ceremony and a private screening of the fantasy film The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey for survivors — but for some Aurora victims, the pain is still too much, the idea too horrific.
Several families boycotted what they called a callous public relations ploy by the theater’s owner, Cinemark. They claimed the Texas-based company didn’t ask them what should happen to the theater. They said Cinemark emailed them an invitation to Thursday’s reopening just two days after they struggled through Christmas without their loved ones.
“It was boilerplate Hollywood — ‘Come to our movie screening,’ ” said Anita Busch, whose cousin, 23-year-old college student Micayla Medek, died at the theater.
But Pierce O’Farrill, who was wounded three times in the shooting, returned Thursday night and immediately walked to the theater back door where he remembers the gunman emerging.
“The last time I saw [the gunman] was right here,” he said as he stood near the exit door. “It’s important for me to come here and sit in the same seat that I was sitting in. It’s all part of the healing process, I guess.”
James Holmes, a former neuroscience Ph.D. student, is charged with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, in the July 20 shootings at the former Century 16 — now called the Century Aurora. A judge has ordered Holmes to stand trial, but he won’t enter a plea until March.
Dozens of first responders joined survivors at the multiplex for Thursday’s ceremony.
“We as a community have not been defeated,” Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said. “We are a community of survivors. We will not let this tragedy define us.”
In addition to the Hobbit screening, theater placards featured Trouble With the Curve, Cloud Atlas and other films for the weekend.
Victims have filed at least three federal lawsuits against Cinemark Holdings Inc., alleging it should have provided security for the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, and that an exit door used by the gunman to get his weapons and re-enter should have had an alarm. In court papers, Cinemark says the tragedy was “unforeseeable and random.”
Gov. John Hickenlooper said at the ceremony in a half-full theater, “Some wanted this theater to reopen. Some didn’t. Certainly both answers are correct.”