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Security at theaters after 'Dark Knight' massacre

Police officers outside an AMC movie theater screening

Police officers outside an AMC movie theater screening "The Dark Knight Rises" in New York. (July 20, 2012) Credit: AP

Representatives of chains that run Long Island theaters said security was their highest priority Friday after the massacre during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado.

AMC Theatres, which runs theaters in Huntington, Levittown, Westbury, Garden City, Rockville Centre and Stony Brook, said the company is "actively working with local law enforcement in communities throughout the nation and under the circumstances we are reaching out to all of our theaters to review our safety and security procedures."

National Amusements, a Massachusetts-based theater chain with several venues on Long Island, said in a statement that "the safety of our patrons and staff is of the utmost importance to us." The company, which has theaters in Holtsville, Valley Stream, Hicksville and Farmingdale, would not discuss internal security measures but was "reinforcing those measures with our theater personnel."

Regal Entertainment Group, which owns theaters in East Hampton, Southampton, Hampton Bays, Farmingdale, Deer Park, Westbury, Lynbrook and Ronkonkoma, released a statement saying the company is "profoundly saddened by the tragedy."

"The security and safety of our guests and staff is always our No. 1 priority," the statement said. "As is our custom, we will continue to monitor the situation and adjust our security needs as necessary. In the meantime, our thoughts and prayers go out to the victims and their families."

Law enforcement agencies on Long Island, meanwhile, increased police presence at theaters showing the movie. The movie is playing in about three dozen theaters in the five boroughs and another three dozen on Long Island -- 17 in Nassau, 19 in Suffolk.

Sitting with friends at a table at the food court outside the ticket counter at Broadway Multiplex Cinemas at the Broadway Mall in Hicksville, Rob Stone said that the mass killings would have little effect on his moviegoing habits.

"I don't want to live in fear, you know," said Stone, 29, of Garden City, a self-described Batman fan. "You can't let it hold you back ... what can you do?"

Stone said he viewed the shootings as "an isolated incident."

"It's definitely in the back of your mind. It's obviously unnerving," Stone said. "But what are the odds it's going to happen on Long Island? Just because it's that far away, it's kind of that far away in your mind, too."

Three independent theater owners on Long Island said they had no plans to cancel screenings Friday.

"This is the first instance I've ever heard of something like this happening," said Matt Latten, co-owner of Sayville Cinemas. "It's not that I'm not taking it seriously, but I'm just looking at the odds that this isn't going to happen here."

Phil Solomon, owner of PJ Cinemas in Port Jefferson, said he may advise staff to make sure the theater's emergency-exit doors are shut after each screening, since the Aurora, Colo., gunman reportedly entered the venue through such a door.

"But what's to prevent somebody from opening the door if someone knocks?" Solomon said. "Do you have metal detectors when people walk into a movie theater? It's crazy."

Nancy Montero, manager at Elwood Cinemas in East Northport, said security guards will patrol the theater as per usual.

Operators of the independently owned theater expect steady sales for all six showings of the Batman movie on Friday. The movie is showing in their largest screening room, which has 145 seats.

Patrons have acknowledged the Colorado shooting but don't seem concerned about copycat incidents, she said.

"We have a very controlled theater. Anyone walking through our front doors can't be lost," Montero said.

"We have a quaint, small theater so people are not in fear here."

With Rafer Guzmán

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