The harshly worded note from the families says, in part:
To the Management of Cinemark USA, Inc.:
During the holiday we didn't think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred.Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything and yours is awful.
You (Cinemark) has shown, and continues to show, ZERO compassion to the families of the victims whose loved ones were killed in their theater. You, Cinemark, have never once reached out to the families to offer condolences.
This disgusting offer that you'd "like to invite you and a guest to a special evening of remembrance on Thursday, January 17 at 5 PM" followed by the showing of a movie and then telling us to be sure "to reserve our tickets" is wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones.
Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn't care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling.
The letter, full version on view below, goes on to say that this is a "thinly veiled publicity ploy" and that the families will use "every social media tool" at their disposal to encourage people to boycott the "killing field" of their children.
The letter claims that Cinemark has also been unresponsive to their inquiries in the past -- which makes this invitation all the more insulting.
"Like we'd really want to sit through a movie," says Phillips. "Are they going to show us The Dark Knight so we can see the whole thing?"
She adds, "Whoever is handling their PR should be fired.... This is insulting to the memory of our children, our loved ones."
Her husband, Lonnie Phillips, Ghawi's stepfather, says that the effort seems very commercial, which is partly why it is so hurtful.
"Obviously the theater is interested in rebuilding their image and using the victims to do it," he says. "We are letting them know how distasteful it was and to rethink what they are doing.... It is very disturbing."
Reached this morning, COVA's Lewis declined to comment citing the ongoing gag order. It appears that COVA, which has contact information for the families, was sending the message on Cinemark's behalf, and is not planning the remembrance event. (We've left a message with Cinemark and will update this post if we hear back from the company.)
Continue for the full invite and the families' full response.