Police, theaters share security protocols with release of “Joker” movie

Police, theaters share security protocols with release of “Joker” movie
Moviegoers were excited to see the "Joker" Friday night, despite controversy and increased security at theaters across the country. (Source: KOLD News 13)

TUCSON, Ariz. (KOLD News 13) - It is expected to be one of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters of the year.

But, the “Joker" premiere has also prompted law enforcement agencies across the country to be on alert and step up patrols, including some in Southern Arizona.

“Joker” reveals the backstory of the Batman Villain, portrayed as a disturbed man who was bullied and ultimately turned to violence.

“I think that touches a lot on mental health issues, so I believe that’s a big concern. Maybe for it being relate-able in a sense that someone could act out in a way, you know?" said moviegoer Emilio Molera.

That storyline, along with the connection to the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, has some on edge.

Seven years ago, a gunman killed 12 people and injured others when he started shooting during a midnight screening of the film “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Despite the concerns shared across the country, Timothy Espinosa said he wasn’t worried on his way into the movie at the Century 20 El Con theater in Tucson Friday night. Espinosa said he was looking forward to the dark Hollywood fantasy.

“Just that it’s a different take on a DC movie, so I kind of like that it’s going to be a little darker, not so much geared towards teenagers," Espinosa said.

Keeping customers safe is still a top priority. Of the Tucson theaters KOLD News 13 reached out to or found policies posted online, none were allowing any masks or costume make-up.

"Joker" opens tomorrow - Friday, October 4th!

"Joker" opens tomorrow - Friday, October 4th! Tickets on sale now! PLEASE NOTE: No one wearing masks or costume make-up will be permitted into the theater. Thank you!

Posted by RoadHouse Cinemas Tucson on Thursday, October 3, 2019

A representative with Harkins Theatres released this statement to KOLD News 13:

“Harkins Theatres has been family owned and operated since 1933. Every day in our theatres, we entertain our friends and family and the safety and comfort of our guests is always of paramount concern to us. On an ongoing basis, we employ a variety of security measures to ensure the safety, peace of mind and enjoyment of all of our guests. As you can understand, for everyone’s safety, we do not share these details publicly. While guests are welcome to come in costume, we do not permit masks, face paint or anything that obscures the face.”

Cinemark and Century Theaters added simulated weapons are not allowed on the premises. The company also has a bag and package policy that prohibits large bags in theaters. That policy was put in place in February of 2018.

“Generally want to know where everything is at, which I assume most people with certain common sense will do that," said Molera. "When you get into the theater, right on the big screen, they let you know right before the movie starts where everything’s at and I believe if you’ve been here before, or any other theater, you know where to go if you needed to.”

The screenings in Tucson will also come with security. Several local law enforcement agencies said officers were made aware of the premiere.

The Marana Police Department said a department-wide email was sent to the officers notifying them about the release of the movie. A spokesperson said officers will also be in area of the Harkins Theatre at Arizona Pavilions.

A spokesperson for the Oro Valley Police Department said increased patrols at the Oro Valley Marketplace theater began Thursday night with the movie’s premiere.

The Tucson Police Department said officers are always providing security at local theaters, hired by the individual companies to provide off-duty patrols. Officers can also monitor locations during normal area patrols.

A spokesperson with the Pima County Sheriff’s Department said the department was aware of the threat on social media and will be monitoring and handling any threats made towards theaters within the county. The spokesperson added the AMC Theatre at the Foothills Mall hired deputies for off-duty work during showings of the “Joker” movie.

Anything suspicious should be reported via 9-1-1 or 88-crime.

While some could see why there would be safety concerns, others said it was just another night at the movies.

“I can see why some people would feel more comfortable with that, it doesn’t generally impact me. I don’t know why, but I’m fine coming to public spaces," said Espinosa.

Copyright 2019 KOLD News 13. All rights reserved.