On Friday afternoon across Silicon Valley—and perhaps nearly everywhere across America—people came, as they always do, to movie theaters on a summer day, but with a sense of soberness.
The Dark Knight Rises, the much-anticipated conclusion of the adult Batman series has taken a darker turn, with news of a mass shooting in a Colorado movie theater.
Images of the aftermath of the deadly midnight rampage that left 12 people dead and 71 people shot were fresh and present. Customers, theater owners and workers were muted they tried to grasp implications of the actions of the 24-year-old suspect, James Holmes, three states away.
"That was so scary, it was such a surprise," said Belinda Cairns, outside the , whose son was meeting friends for a movie day.
"It makes me a little nervous."
Like Cairns' son, movie-goers around the Bay trickled into theaters Friday. Cairns was at the Shoreline Boulevard theater around noon, where the Batman sequel was showing, every hour on the half hour. Several dozen bikes could be seen parked outside, just a short distance from the Internet search giant’s headquarters.
Meanwhile,employees at the on North Santa Cruz Ave. said they've all received instructions on what to do in case of an emergency.
Indeed, with the weekend just beginning and the powerful Batman sequel in its opening day, the National Association of Theater Owners said its members were working with law enforcement. There are an estimated 5,700 theaters across the country.
“We are grateful for the quick and effective response by police and emergency personnel,” said Patrick Corcoran, a spokesman for the theater owners association, known as NATO.
“Guest safety is, and will continue to be a priority for theater owners. NATO members are working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."
Camera Cinemas office administrator Moe Kistler said about 150 Camera Cinema employees—at Camera 12 and Camera 3 in downtown San Jose, Camera 7 in the Pruneyard in Campbell, and Los Gatos Cinema—had been reminded of precautionary measures.
"The NATO has a long list of things we review to be cautious of copycats and what to do to keep our customers safe and protected during times of emergencies," Kistler said.
Additionally, "From our local police, I've heard they've stepped-up precautionary measures at our local theaters," Kistler said.
A Mountain View Police Department spokeswoman sought to provide some calming perspective about so-called "copy cats."
"That was a completely isolated incident and copy cats are more the stuff of movies than reality," said Liz Wylie, public information officer for the Mountain View Police Department.
“They are so incredibly rare in situations like this that people should not alter their plans or behavior," she said.
"We already do frequent patrol checks of the movie theater parking lots and will continue to do so. "
Art Cohen, owner of BlueLight Cinemas in San Jose said he believes the theaters “are 99.99 percent safe” and that going to the theater is still “probably safer than driving your car.”
“This was an out of the box—unfortunately—a very disturbed person who decided to do something really awful that hurt a lot of people.”
BlueLight Cinemas already has security procedures in place, and has had constant surveillance since 9/11, he added. They always observe the behavior of patrons, he said.
“Obviously, we’re all going to be a little more alert,” he said, but said there were no special procedures they would institute.
For one Los Altos mother, who dropped off her son at Cinema 16 in Mountain View with Cairns' son, it was an opportunity.
"Anything we see that happens in the news, I use it as a teaching opportunity for my children," said Katy Drewey.
On Patch sites, users were absorbing the news and responding.
"I don't think it's worth punishing the public with metal detectors, security guards, new rules, etc." wrote user Watzon McWats on Watsonville Patch.
"I'd likely avoid patronizing a place like that as I don't like feeling as if I live in a police state. Sometimes you just gotta take it easy and accept the basic risks in life. It's not worth stressing over stuff like this on a day to day basis. Stress less, beach more."