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Colorado theater reopening divides town

A man and a boy wearing a Batman jacket arrive on Thursday, Jan. 17, at the movie theater where 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage at a Batman film on July in Aurora, Colo. REUTERS

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By The Associated Press
Thursday, Jan. 17, 2013, 9:20 p.m.

AURORA — The Colorado cinema where 12 people were killed and dozens injured in a shooting rampage nearly six months ago reopened on Thursday with a remembrance ceremony and a private screening of the fantasy film “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” for survivors — but for some Aurora victims, the pain is still too much, the idea too horrific.

Several families boycotted what they called a callous public relations ploy by the theater's owner, Cinemark. They claimed the Texas-based company — which has been publicly silent since the July 20 shooting — didn't ask them what should happen to the theater. They said Cinemark emailed them an invitation to the reopening just two days after they struggled through Christmas without their loved ones.

“It was boilerplate Hollywood — ‘Come to our movie screening,'” said Anita Busch, whose cousin, 23-year-old college student Micayla Medek, died at the theater.

Others, like Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, said the event was part of the healing process and that many residents wanted to see the theater back up and running.

James Holmes, a former neuroscience Ph.D. student, is charged with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, in the July 20 shootings at the former Century 16 — now the Century Aurora. A judge ordered Holmes to stand trial, but he won't enter a plea until March.

First responders to the massacre, Hogan, Gov. John Hickenlooper and religious leaders were to join survivors at the multiplex for the event.

In addition to the “Hobbit” screening, theater placards featured “Trouble With the Curve,” ‘'Cloud Atlas,” ‘'The Perks of Being a Wallflower” and other films for the weekend.

Victims have filed at least three federal lawsuits against Cinemark, alleging it should have provided security for the midnight “The Dark Knight Rises” showing, and that an exit door used by the gunman to get his weapons and re-enter should have had an alarm. In court papers, Cinemark says the tragedy was “unforeseeable and random.”

Hogan noted that the community grieves and heals in different ways but insisted that most Aurora residents wanted to reopen the theater.

“For those who don't want to be there, who can't be there, I understand and respect that,” Hogan said. “For us here, the larger community if you will, it is part of the healing process.”

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