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article imagePolice respond to movie theater 'active shooter' publicity stunt

By Anne Sewell     May 10, 2013 in Entertainment
Jefferson City - During the opening weekend of "Iron Man 3", Goodrich Capital 8 Theaters held a publicity stunt, with a man in full tactical gear, carrying a fake gun, entering the cinema. Police and several customers were not amused.
Management at the Goodrich Capital 8 Theaters is defending its publicity stunt, but Jefferson City police and witnesses to the stunt, are not impressed and are questioning the theater's logic of staging such an event after the recent tragic shootings in Aurora, Colo. and Newtown, Conn.
One of the customers, John Molock, is a retired Army war veteran, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. When interviewed by ABC 17 News, he said that this trip to the movies triggered memories he would rather have forgotten forever.
"We had just finished watching Iron Man 3," said Morlock. "We're just getting into the car when I spotted a man in full assault gear, carrying what appeared to be a modified M-4 and 9 mm on his side."
Although Morlock didn't call the police, several other moviegoers did, immediately.
Capt. Doug Shoemaker of Jefferson City Police Department said that he thought they were responding to an active shooter investigation.
"We received a series of 911 calls stating that a man dressed in all black and body armor and a rifle was walking into Capital 8 Theaters," said Shoemaker.
"Everything was in place, it's the opening night of a superhero movie, it's somebody walking in all-dark clothes, everything pointed to bad things about to happen," said Shoemaker. "There's really no good that can come of this."
However, it turned out to all be part of a publicity stunt for the opening of the latest super hero movie. The man who had turned up in tactical gear was an actor, and his weapon was merely a toy gun.
According to Bob Wilkins, manager of Capital 8 Theaters, this stunt was planned months ago, and he said that only a few people were upset, but that hundreds of others were actually entertained.
However, several moviegoers as well as law enforcement feel that the stunt was not a good idea in the circumstances.
Morlock said, "That's just unbelievable. The whole country is talking about gun control because of shootings in theaters and schools."
On behalf of the police, Shoemaker stressed, "It's an unfortunate lack of wisdom in this particular judgement that hopefully will never occur again," adding that it was a good thing that there wasn't an off-duty officer in the theater at the time of the stunt, who might have engaged the actor. If this had occurred, things could have been so much worse.
Officials did say, however, that the department has a good relationship with the movie theater. Ironically, just couple of months ago, the SWAT team held an active shooter training there.
ABC 17 asked Wilkins if management took into consideration the mass shootings at the Colorado movie theater when planning this stunt, to which Wilkins responded, "Absolutely. That's my number-one priority every day. It's the safety and security of our guests."
When asked if he had any regrets about allowing this controversial stunt, he said, "No, my job is to entertain people."
However, a social media backlash followed the initial report on the stunt by ABC 17, and on Friday, Goodrich Capital 8 posted an apology on their Facebook page as follows:
"We apologize and are sympathetic to those who felt they were in harm’s way with our character promotion for Iron Man 3. This was not a publicity stunt. We have worked with the Cosplacon group on many movies to dress up and help entertain our customers. We have had many complaints about the members dressed specifically as S.H.I.E.L.D. operatives carrying fake guns. We didn’t clearly tell our customers and some people didn’t realize it was for entertainment purposes only. We apologize that police were called to come out to our theater. We have a wonderful working relationship with the Jefferson City Police Department. Going forward we will take the necessary steps to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Security and safety for our customers is our number one priority."
A couple of comments on their Facebook page in response to the stunt:
"What the hell is wrong with people!! My daughter was in the Aurora theatre the night of the shooting. She is still f*cked up from the trama [sic]. What a horrible thing to first think of then actually follow through with. Shame on on you!!!!!!!"
"How stupid can you get in this day and age of violent shootings and bombing to have a stuntman dressed in full tactical gear walk into a theatre? You should be boycotted and charges should be made."
Your thoughts, please. Was this the most idiotic publicity stunt possible in this day and age?
More about Jefferson city, Cinema, Iron man, Publicity stunt, iron man 3
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