Regal movie theaters searching viewers’ bags


If movies are supposed to offer an escape from reality, they haven’t succeeded much lately. Three people were killed last month in Lafayette, Louisiana, during a screening of Amy Schumer’s “Trainwreck”; a man wielding a hatchet at a showing of “Mad Max: Fury Road” was killed by police in Nashville this month. And, of course, all movie theater attacks hearken back to the 2012 “Dark Knight” massacre in Aurora, Colorado, perpetrated by James Holmes.

Now, the nation’s largest movie chain will make a move to combat such violence borrowed from airports, government buildings and high schools: searching bags. Regal Entertainment posted an almost apologetic statement on its Web site about the policy change, as USA Today reported.

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” the Web site reads. “Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

Regal operates movie theaters in Augusta and Brunswick.

As Reuters noted, it’s not clear when the policy was put in place, and Regal has declined comment. But Houston’s ABC 13 noted the policy had been seen in Texas’s largest city, as well as in Virginia, Florida and Ohio. And USA Today interviewed some whose bags were searched at Washington’s Regal Gallery Place 14.

“If it can prevent an attack from happening, it’s a minor inconvenience for me,” D.C. resident Manny Geraldo, told USA Today.

Some said about Regal’s alleged ulterior motive: sniffing out food-smugglers.

“Honestly that’s fine with me,” Brittany Thompson wrote to WBIR in Knoxville, Tenn. “But are they gonna call me out for my snacks?”

There was also the question of whether the average movie-theater employee was qualified to search strangers for deadly weapons — and whether such a policy would be effective.

“It’s a pretty big thing to ask for 16-year-old employees to search through bags for possible firearms,” Jeff Bock, box office analyst for theater-industry research firm Exhibitor Relations, told USA Today. “This kind of changes the duties of a theater employee from making popcorn and sweeping floors to basically being a low-rent security guard.” He added: “We now have to deal with the consequences of what if they find something in the bag.”

Perhaps metal detectors would be more effective — or, as Schumer argued with her cousin, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., last month, more gun control is needed.

“We never know why people choose to do these painful things, but sadly we always find out how,” the comedian said.