Victims lash out at Cinemark after invite to re-opening event

“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 said.

AURORA | Relatives of several people killed in the Aurora theater shooting won’t attend the theater’s reopening this month and are calling the invitation “wholly offensive.”

In an angry  letter to Cinemark, Inc., the families of nine of the 12 people killed in the theater this week called the theater chain’s offer to attend the reopening Jan. 17 “disgusting” and said it was little more than a publicity stunt.

“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 said.

The outdoor theater lettering is no longer Oct. 23 at Century Aurora 16 theater. Plans for the redesigned theater call for major changes to theater 9, where 12 people were killed in the July 20 rampage. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

Several victims, including some who signed the Jan. 2 letter, have filed lawsuits against Cinemark accusing the Plano, Texas-based theater chain of having lax security the night of the shootings, which left 12 dead and 70 hurt.

Cinemark announced last fall that they were redesigning the Century Aurora 16 theater where the massacre occurred and would reopen it Jan. 17.

The families criticized the company for not previously reaching out to them to offer condolences and refusing to meet with them without lawyers.

Cinemark had no immediate comment.

The company announced last month that it would reopen the theater, a move that Aurora officials said has strong support in the community. Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to attend.

Plans filed with the city call for turning the theater into one of the company’s “extreme digital cinema” sites that feature massive screens. It’s not clear from the plans whether there will be a memorial to the victims.

The invitation was emailed to families by the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance, which said the offer was being sent on behalf of Cinemark.

It arrived two days after Christmas as Sandy and Lonnie Phillips, the mother and stepfather of Jessica Ghawi, one of the 12 people killed, were housesitting in Denver.

They had left their home in San Antonio, Texas, on the advice of their grief counselor to avoid being where they typically would have celebrated Christmas with Jessica. Sandy Phillips said they picked Denver on purpose because her daughter, a 24-year-old aspiring sportscaster, had been happy there.

The Phillipses said the invitation could be a public relations ploy to help show the public that some victims or their families are willing to attend the theater reopening.

“It was a killing field. It was a place of carnage and they’ve not once told us what their plans are for the theater other than that they’re reopening it,” said Sandy Phillips. She would like the theater where her daughter was killed to be demolished, though she acknowledged that it was unrealistic to expect Cinemark to give up the rest of the building.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.

  • I completely agree with the relatives of those killed at the theatre July 20. I didn’t have any friends/relatives involved but will never step into that place again. Once again the almighty dollar is more important.

    • Jason

      AMC is just as much a victim in this whole mess. They have bent over backwards accommodating the city of Aurora and listening to the wishes of its citizens. I say kudos to them for standing strong and not giving in to the madman. I had friends shot in that theater, and I will be attending movies there in the future along with my wife and young son.

      Clarice, I guess you should stop driving on any road that someone has died due to a drunk driver, or stop using a hospital because they make money from rape and stabbing victims. Perhaps you should not visit the church in Aurora where a man shot and killed 2 people, or use the park where that poor little girl was found. If we shut down every business where someone died, we would have shrines throughout the city and very little usable space to conduct our lives.

      My condolences to the families. If they choose to not be there, more power to them, but this should be a private matter with the theater not an episode in the national media.

    • Not So Silent Observer

      You are right, of course…the dollar is more important.
      Did you know that the theater has paid the full salary of every one of it’s employees since the shooting? There is nothing that coerced them to do that. They have received no benefit from those employees.
      Greedy company.
      Why don’t you resist posting in the future unless you know something even close to the truth?

  • Lax security? Last time I checked you don’t get checked at any theater and they always have a rent a cop or a real cop there every time I’ve been there. Its not the theaters fault in anyway. Redirect your anger to the killer.