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Are moviegoers passing on planned trips to the theater?

By Stephanie Goldberg and Phil Gast, CNN
updated 9:26 AM EDT, Sat July 21, 2012
Some moviegoers will steer clear of the theater this weekend in the wake of the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.
Some moviegoers will steer clear of the theater this weekend in the wake of the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Risk consultant says shootings won't affect attendance
  • Some moviegoers will surrender pre-bought movie tickets
  • More than 2,000 people were checked in to "Rises" on GetGlue as of 11:30 a.m. on Friday
  • National Association of Theatre Owners: Working with police, reviewing security procedures

Anderson Cooper anchors "AC360" from Aurora, Colorado, scene of the deadly movie theater shooting, at 8 and 10 ET Friday night on CNN.

(CNN) -- Thais Mills was looking forward to taking her 7-year-old niece to see "The Dark Knight Rises" Friday evening at 8:15. But in the wake of the shooting at an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater, the 31-year-old from New Orleans said she would surrender the movie tickets she bought for about $20 in advance.

"I just feel like now the movie theater is, it's not a place of peace," Mills said. "Think about how vulnerable you are. You're in a dark room sitting next to people you don't know. Until something is concocted that can ensure my safety, I just feel more comfortable at the house."

But not all moviegoers will steer clear of the theater.

Despite the many users on social networking sites who echoed Mills' grief and fear, more than 2,000 people were checked in to "The Dark Knight Rises" on GetGlue as of 11:30 a.m. Friday.

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CNN asked readers what they thought on Facebook. "I still went and saw it," said a Facebook user named Christopher Vento. "Tragedy happens every day. We must not let fear govern our lives."

Another poster, Jeanne Ballinger Sedgwick, said she did not plan on seeing the Batman film, but was hesitant to attend a different midnight showing.

"I don't think I'll feel safe sitting in a theater to see any popular movie for quite some time. I don't think that would ever happen here, but neither did those poor people sitting there in the dark theater last night in Aurora."

Twitter user @sophiacrowley wrote: "I refuse to live in fear, this won't deter me from going to the movies anymore than 9/11 stopped me from flying."

Other users expressed similar sentiments, tweeting, "It's sad what happened but it's not going to stop me from going about my daily life or even going to the movies."

For former film critic Steven Senski, avoiding the theater isn't the answer. However, the 49-year-old Muskego, Wisconsin, resident who managed a movie theater in 2003, said he's "very much disinclined to attend a midnight showing."

Shooting casts pall over 'Dark Knight Rises' blockbuster weekend

"Midnight showings are, and have always had a unique certain air about them," Senski said. "You do bring in patrons fresh from the bar, patrons who are sleep deprived, and in cases like 'The Dark Knight Rises,' you bring in people who may be dressed, costumed. It is a very joyous atmosphere, but it feels out of the theater's control."

Both Senski and Mills agree that one reason so many people enjoy going to the movies is because it offers an escape from reality.

"A movie theater should be one of the safest places you can be," Senski said. "When we go to the theater, when the lights come down, there's that feeling of ... whatever your problems, whatever your concerns, you're going to set them aside for two hours and hopefully be entertained."

Though Warner Bros., the studio behind the movie, canceled its Paris premiere, it said it was "deeply saddened" by the incident but would not cancel any screenings.

Infants too young for late-night movies?

The Department of Homeland Security reissued a checklist to theater operators, covering security and emergency procedures. It also reminded them to ensure their staffs are properly trained.

The National Association of Theatre Owners, which represents more than 30,000 movie screens, said it was "working closely with local law enforcement agencies and reviewing security procedures."

"On behalf of all the members and staff of the National Association of Theatre Owners, our hearts and prayers go out to the victims of this despicable act and their families," a statement says. "We are grateful for the quick and effective response by police and emergency personnel. Guest safety is, and will continue to be a priority for theater owners."

Some police departments and theaters around the country tightened security on Friday.

William J. Bratton, chairman of Kroll Advisory Solutions, which provides risk consulting, said he did not expect decreased attendance at theaters showing "The Dark Knight Rises."

"This type of shooting could occur at a ball park, a concert, it could occur anywhere," said Bratton. "This appears to be, fortunately, an isolated incident."

Police departments can't afford to patrol theaters over the long term, he said.

"In America today, there is no need to significantly increase security in our public spaces," said Bratton, former Los Angeles police chief. "You respond to threats, but with millions of public spaces, we don't live in a police state."

He said he expects some lessons will be learned from Friday's horrific incident. He cited notification systems that grew out of the Columbine and Virginia Tech attacks.

"Some of the larger (theater) chains might go for some enhanced security theaters. Some of the smaller ones won't be able," he said.

Mills, a Katrina survivor, said, "There has to be a sense of togetherness to get us through," and it will take time before she feels comfortable going to the movie theater again.

Theater shooting unfolds in real time over social media

Her niece, who watched the tragedy unfold on TV, "is more than shaken up," Mills said, noting the pair typically see one movie together every week. "It's the most affordable form of outdoor entertainment," she added.

Still, her niece's safety and peace of mind come first. "I'm going to have to keep a close eye on her and see where her comfort levels are, but for now we'll just be enjoying some old DVDs."

In light of the recent shooting, what are your thoughts on gun control and public safety? Let us know on CNN iReport

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