There is a part of me, I must admit, that always feared — no, make that knew — something like this would happen sooner or later. I just didn’t know it would happen precisely like it did during the minutes after midnight Friday in Aurora, Colorado.
See, for years – decades, really – I thought that a worst-case scenario eventually would unfold at one of those advance screenings promoted by radio stations, newspapers and other media outlets. In case you didn’t know this already, let me tell you a dirty little secret about those screenings: They’re always overbooked. Always overbooked. The people in charge of distributing the passes – at online sites, in retail outlets, through radio station promotions, whatever — routinely distribute so many passes that, if everyone who got one used it, there’d never be enough room in the designated megaplex auditorium to accommodate them.
I remember exiting the AMC 30 at close to 3 a.m., feeling jazzed and amused and exuberantly satisfied, looking forward to writing a review. I drove home and started typing. But then I noticed a news-bulletin email on my cellphone. And then I stopped writing the review. I haven’t gone back to it yet.
And there is a method to this madness: Not everybody who gets a pass actually uses it. Seriously. Indeed, I would go so far as to say that easily half of these preview screenings – maybe three-quarters – do not fill every single seat in the house.
Why? Chalk it up to a bizarre kink in human nature: For some people, maybe a lot of people, actually getting the pass, one way or another, is the primary goal. Whether they wind up using it is of secondary concern. And publicists can’t run the risk of advance-screening their clients’ films to half-empty houses. Because if they do… well, they won’t retain their clients for very long.
Which is why, at more advance screenings than I would care to recall over the past several years, I have found myself worrying whether some pass-holder who waited a long time in line – who assumed he would get in because, hey, he had a pass, goddammit, and brought his lady friend along to see the flick – might get upset when informed that there was no more room inside. Might decide to express his disappointment non-verbally. Might reach in his pocket and take out a firearm and indicate just how truly pissed off he was.
But that isn’t what happened in Colorado. Not at all. Some psycho planned ahead of time, legally purchased a passel of weapons, strolled into a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises – not a promotional screening, mind you, but one that people actually bought tickets to attend – and opened fire.
Why? Because he could, that’s why. And because there is evil in this world you cannot begin to imagine.
Over the next few weeks and months and maybe years, we’ll be inundated with theories explaining why this cowardly son of a bitch (whose name I refuse to mention, because I will not grant him that tiny bit of celebrity) thought it would be a nifty idea to slaughter moviegoers guilty of nothing more heinous than the desire to communally enjoy a good time.
We’ll be assaulted with the blathering of morons who’ll insist that, had one or two or more of those moviegoers been packing heat, they could have shot back. (That’s right: Through the smoke, and in the midst of chaos, they could have stopped the killer in his tracks without perforating innocent bystanders. Sure. Of course.)
And we’ll left once again to contemplate an ineluctable fact of life that all of us know, deep down in our hearts, but seldom wish to acknowledge: There is no hiding place.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to a lecture on campus, or going to work in a New York office tower, or saying grace with your family in a cafeteria, or chowing down on a hamburger in a fast-food restaurant. If there’s somebody there ready to die in order to kill, you stand a better than even-money chance of going down.
It doesn’t matter whether you’re listening to a lecture on campus, or going to work in an office tower, or saying grace with your family in a cafeteria. If there’s somebody there ready to die in order to kill, you stand a better than even-money chance of going down.
And now, alas, we have to add move theaters to the list of unsafe harbors.
Want to know when I found out about the Aurora massacre? About 30 minutes after I walked out of a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises at the AMC Studio 30. I remember exiting the megaplex at close to 3 a.m., feeling jazzed and amused and exuberantly satisfied, looking forward to writing a review for this site. I drove home and started typing. But then I noticed a news-bulletin email on my cellphone. And then I stopped writing the review. I haven’t gone back to it yet.
Make no mistake about it: I remain seriously spooked out by the idea that, had someone like the psycho in Colorado been on the prowl in H-Town late Thursday, you might be reading about me now as someone figuring into a body count.
But what truly disturbs me is what online movie columnist David Poland eloquently summed it up for cineastes: “[T]his is someone coming into our chosen church and killing people who were not only sharing the communal experience that is so much a part of so many of our lives. It was a massacre of some of the most enthusiastic members of the movie loving community.”
And Poland is right: As much as some of us might snicker at the fanboys (and fangirls) who want to be the first in line to see the latest comic-book movie, the fact is that they are among the most avid enthusiasts who lead the way by buying the first tickets and shouting the first raves.
And they were among the primary targets when the killer in Colorado opened fire.
In short: They are among the True Believers in the church where I worship. And they are among the martyrs I am mourning right now.