Aurora Theater Shooting

Aurora shooting: Families of victims blast letter from Cinemark inviting them to reopening

This was not the holiday letter that families of the Aurora theater shooting victims wanted to receive.

Two days after Christmas, the families of those killed on July 20 received a letter inviting them to return to the site of the massacre for a Cinemark reopening event. They've since responded with a letter blasting the invite as a deeply insensitive marketing ploy, saying they will be encouraging a boycott.

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On July 20 suspect James Holmes, who was in court today, allegedly entered the Aurora Century 16 theater and opened fire, killing twelve and injuring dozens more. Since the tragedy, Cinemark, the owner of the theater, has faced lawsuits from injured victims arguing that the company could have taken precautions against the crime.

Cinemark has been in contact with the victims and their families before, working through the Arapahoe County District Attorney's office, letting them know that the company was open to the possibility of having them visit the site if they wanted to. Cinemark had announced in September that it planned to reopen the theater; the date has since been set for January 17.

And now Cinemark is formally inviting the families to return to the theater for some kind of "remembrance" event timed with the Century 16 reopening. Sent on December 27, the invite reached the families via the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, a group that has come under fire for its role in the process of disbursing donations after the shooting. The invitation (which was forwarded to us by family members) was included in an e-mail from Nancy Lewis, COVA's executive director:

As you may be aware, the Century Aurora theater will be reopening in January, Cinemark, the owner of the theater, would like to invite you and a quest to a special evening of remembrance on Thursday, January 17 at 5 P.M. A movie will be shown following the remembrance ceremony.

Please reserve tickets for you and your guest by responding to this e-mail. E-mail your name and the name of you guest and your address to [email protected] by January 8, 2013. Your tickets will be mailed to you. Please let me know of any special seating or accessibility requirements you or your guest may have.

The e-mail also notes that counselors will be available to victims and their family members.

"I was horrified," says Sandy Phillips, the mother of Jessica Ghawi, one of the twelve who died on July 20. "I opened up the e-mail from COVA and [thought]...why would you even think we would want to attend the reopening of a theater where our children were murdered?"

She continues, "It was astounding to me...This is the organization for victim assistance -- they should be watching out for us, but instead they collaborated with Cinemark to do an invitation...thinking that we would want to come back to that place.... To me, it was just a PR ploy from Cinemark, to say, 'Oh, look we care so much!'"

Phillips and fourteen other family members signed onto a letter that they sent back to Cinemark, expressing their outrage.

Continue for more on the families' response to Cinemark.