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Aurora Century 16: Facebook survey vote for reopening not limited to locals

Update: Last week, we posted about the decision by Cinemark, owner of the Aurora Century 16, to reopen the theater where James Holmes allegedly killed twelve people and injured 58 this past July; see our previous coverage below. Now, we've learned more details about the Facebook survey that showed the majority of respondents wanted the venue to stay in business. Turns out there's no way to tell if those who participated live in Aurora or not.

Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart says the city doesn't have specific details about the survey. She suggests we contact Cinemark, whose vice president of marketing and communication, James Meredith, has not yet returned a previous call for comment. We've placed another interview request with Meredith and will update this post when and if he gets back to us.

A look inside the Aurora Century 16.
A look inside the Aurora Century 16.

However, Stuart is familiar with the broad strokes of the survey. According to her, more than 6,000 people shared their views, with well over 70 percent voting in favor of reopening the theater. But it's her understanding that the survey didn't allow Cinemark to either limit voters to Aurora or Colorado residents, or to see how many of folks from the city or state took part in the survey -- and what percentage of them wanted the Century 16 to reopen.

Perhaps the majority were from Aurora, since the survey was shared on the city's Facebook page. But given the international attention this shocking event received, there's every possibility that many, if not most, of the survey-takers were from outside the city or the region.

Even if that's the case, Stuart says the sentiment for refurbishing and re-launching the theater jibes with the personal experiences of Aurora officials. In her words, "We've heard from many in our community that they'd like to see the theater reopened. They feel like it's their theater."

She also points to a statement made by Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan about the prospect of the Century 16 returning to regular business again. Hogan said:

I am pleased the victims, families of the victims, our community and others had a chance to share their thoughts and feelings concerning the future of the theater. The responses indicate overwhelming support to reopen the theater with renovations. The theater has been a valued part of our community for many years, and just as they have been all along, I am confident Cinemark will continue to remain sensitive to victims, their families, their employees and our community throughout their process of remodeling and reopening.

We will always remember those who lost their lives and the many others impacted that day. While no one will ever forget that day, this is another step in the community's healing.

In addition, Hogan sent a letter to Cinemark expressing similar emotions. It's on view below, along with Cinemark's own letter about reopening the Century 16 and two lawsuits filed by theater shooting victims that the company has asked a judge to dismiss.

Continue to read more about the plan to reopen the Aurora Century 16 -- and the lawsuits that accuse Cinemark of security lapses and negligence.

Update, 8:08 a.m. September 28: Mere hours after we published a post about the possible impact of lawsuits filed Aurora theater shooting victims on plans to reopen the Century 16, shuttered since the July 20 massacre that killed twelve and injured 58, Cinemark provided an answer -- in court. The Texas-based owner of the theater filed a motion asking that the lawsuits be dismissed on the grounds that no one could have foreseen the actions of James Holmes, the accused killer.

As we've reported, two suits -- the first jointly filed by Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, the other by Joshua Nowlan, all of whom sustained injuries in the attack -- argue that because of past incidents at the Century 16, including "at least one shooting, involving gang members," plus assaults and robberies, the theater should have had security personnel on hand for the midnight screenings of The Dark Knight Rises, during which the assault took place. The complaints also take Cinemark to task for failing to have alarms that would have alerted employees after Holmes allegedly blocked open the exit door in order to arm himself.

Cinemark rejects these claims, according to a document cited by 9News. Here are some excerpts from the motion:

The essence of the complaint is that Cinemark "should have known" that James Holmes would commit a mass murderous assault in the Century 16 Theater on July 20.... Federal, state and local law-enforcement entities...would not be expected to foresee Mr. Holmes' criminal conduct.... Family members and friends who knew him personally for multiple years did not foresee it....

It would be patently unfair, and legally unsound, to impose on Cinemark...the duty and burden to have foreseen and prevented the criminal equivalent of a meteor falling from the sky. Thus, even accepting the allegations in the complaint as true, plaintiffs cannot state a claim that anyone other than Mr. Holmes, the irrational killer, is responsible for the consequences of his criminal conduct.

Our interview request yesterday to Cinemark vice president of communication and marketing James Meredith has not been returned, and neither have at least six calls for comment to City of Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart.

Continue for our previous coverage.

Original post, 11:12 a.m. September 27: Lawsuits by three surviving victims of the July 20 Aurora theater shooting name Cinemark, the Texas company that owns the Century 16, where James Holmes is accused of killing twelve people and injuring 58. These documents were made public on the same day Cinemark announced its intention to reopen the theater. Will the suits affect these plans? Neither Cinemark nor the City of Aurora has addressed the question thus far.

On September 20, 9News reported the results of a survey about reopening the Century 16; it was conducted by the City of Aurora, mainly through its Facebook page. According to the station, the majority of respondents wanted the theater to reopen. But 9News didn't note the final percentage or provide any details about whether Aurora made an effort to insure that the people weighing in were actual residents of the community.

Steve Hogan.
Steve Hogan.

In an effort to get more details, I made an interview request the following morning with City of Aurora spokeswoman Kim Stuart. A few hours later, I received a call from someone else on staff asking on Stuart's behalf for more information about my questions, but she did not get back to me afterward -- and neither has she responded to multiple messages left today.

Later on Friday, Aurora issued a news update revealing that Mayor Steve Hogan had sent a letter to Cinemark President and CEO Tim Warner on September 12 expressing a desire that the company reopen the Century 16. Here's an excerpt from that letter, which can be read in its entirety below:

While no one will ever forget that day, it is now time to look forward and plan for the future. We believe that we are hearing, and indeed have heard for some time, a collective wish and desire for the theater to re-open. We understand that it will need to be refurbished and we hope you will be able to take on that task. As part of that process, there will certainly be some special circumstances to be addressed. These include possible provision for visitation by survivors and families of the deceased, discussions surrounding memorials and possible facade modification. All of these, and others, will be addressed through ongoing conversation.

Warner replied to Hogan in a letter dated September 20 but not made public until the next day; it, too, can also be seen below. After noting that "we will never forget the victims and their families," Warner wrote:

As you know, the city of Aurora is important to us, individually and as a company. It will be our privilege to re-open the theater. We pledge to reconfigure the space and make the theater better than ever.

Hogan added that the firm hopes to have the Century 16 up and running "by the beginning of the New Year."

This news arrived around the same time as two lawsuits from individuals who were injured in the theater shooting -- one was filed jointly by Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod, the other by Joshua Nowlan. (Traynom was shot in the gluteus maximus while she and Axlerod, who suffered knee damage, took refuge behind seats during the attack; Nowlan's arm was almost severed by a bullet, and he was also hit in one leg.) The trio is represented by Denver-based Keating Wagner Polidori Free, P.C, which filed the suits in United States District Court for the District of Colorado. Both suits name Cinemark, because of what the text describes as security shortfalls that add up to negligence on the part of the company.

Continue to read more about claims against Cinemark and see letters from the company and Steve Hogan, as well as the lawsuits.

Brandon Axelrod, left, speaks with reporters in the days after the Aurora theater shooting.
Brandon Axelrod, left, speaks with reporters in the days after the Aurora theater shooting.

As we've reported, the "General Allegations" sections of the documents maintain that Cinemark "had information that previous disturbances, incidents, disruptions and other criminal activities had taken place at or near the property of the theater" prior to the deadly midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises, during which the assault took place. Moreover, the suits continue, "These incidents most commonly took place during the evening hours" and included "at least one shooting, involving gang members," as well as assaults and robberies.

Because of such problems, the suits note that the Century 16 had regularly hired various security personnel to work at the theater, including off-duty Aurora police officers -- but they were typically on duty only Friday and Saturday nights. An exception: On July 19, the suit says officers were on hand for the transfer of box-office cash -- but not for the midnight screenings, when huge throngs descended on the theater to attend one of the year's most anticipated movie launches.

Joshua Nowlan.
Joshua Nowlan.

Moreover, the suits continue, the exterior doors to the theater lacked "any alarm system, interlocking security systems, or any other security or alarm features which would have put Defendant's employees or security personnel on notice that someone had surreptitiously left the theater by the exterior door and had put the door in an open position which would facilitate a surreptitious and unlawful re-entry" -- precisely what Holmes is thought to have done. And neither did the theater have procedures in place to prevent anyone from taking this action, the complaint maintains.

These assertions are interesting when viewed against the backdrop of the reopening announcement. If, for instance, Cinemark installs alarms on the doors or dictates that security personnel be on hand for all midnight screenings, no matter the day of the week, could attorneys for Traynom, Axelrod and Nowlan successfully argue that these changes constitute acknowledgment that previous procedures were inadequate -- and actionable?

We've reached out to James Meredith, Cinemark's vice president of marketing and communication, in the hope of asking this and other questions, but he hasn't replied thus far. If and when he or a City of Aurora spokesperson does so, we'll update this post.

Continue to see the 9News report about the reopening survey, plus letters from Aurora's mayor and Cinemark's CEO and the two lawsuits.

Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan Letter to Cinemark
Cinemark Letter to Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan
Denise Traynom and Brandon Axelrod v. Cinemark USA
Joshua Nowlan v. Cinemark USA

More from our Aurora Theater Shooting archive: "Aurora theater shooting: Torrence Brown Jr. first to sue over attack."