Aurora Theater Reopens Over Objections of Some Victims’ Families

Some victims’ families are outraged—but others say they'll attend the rededication to honor the dead. Winston Ross reports.

A lone security guard kept the car running Wednesday night outside the movie theater where James Holmes allegedly went on a rampage last summer, parked just outside the fences that encircle the parking lot, obscuring most of the view of what once was called the Century Aurora 16.

“Theater’s closed, man,” the guard said apologetically as a reporter pulled up.

Not for long. This infamous theater will reopen its doors today after a $1 million renovation and a change of marquee, bringing pain, closure, and controversy to a mass murderer’s many victims.

Cinemark, the theater’s owner, has gone to great lengths to make its reopening a sensitive event, knowing the pain of the many who endured a July 20 shooting that left 12 people dead and 70 wounded during the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Colorado’s governor and Aurora’s mayor will speak at a ceremony that begins at 5 p.m. Victims and their family members were invited to tour the renovated facility on Tuesday and Wednesday, and they were all sent letters beforehand to let them know of the theater’s reopening.

Some of the victims aren’t happy about this development.

“During the holiday we didn’t think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred,” came a letter signed by 15 victims and their loved ones. “[Cinemark] … continues to show ZERO compassion to the families of the victims whose loved ones were killed in [the] theater. You, Cinemark, have never once reached out to the families to offer condolences. This disgusting offer that you’d “like to invite you and a guest to a special evening of remembrance … followed by the showing of a movie and then telling us to be sure to reserve our tickets is wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones.”

The letter writers pledge to boycott tonight’s event, accusing the theater company of “reminding us how your quest for profits has blinded your leadership and made you so callous as to be oblivious to our mental anguish. We, the families, recognize your thinly veiled publicity ploy for what it is: a great opportunity for you to distance yourselves and divert public scrutiny from your culpability in this matter.”

Not all victims see it that way though. In a letter published in Friday’s Denver Post, the father of slain theatergoer Alex Sullivan wrote that he planned on attending the reopening.

“If you truly knew my son Alex, you would know that he would want me to be there,” Tom Sullivan wrote, “if only to show that we will not allow anyone to take the joy we shared at theaters across the metro area away from us and help gather the Aurora community together.”

Sullivan said the “Aurora community asked for” the theater to be reopened, and he called it “the first step in gathering and rebuilding the Aurora community.”

Sullivan said he intended to be there today because “If I can help just one person through the difficult experience of walking into this theater or any theater, then it will be an effort I have to make … the seat next to me will be saved for Alex, but I’ll have an extra hand if you need something to hold on to.”