As this commentator sees it, the Capitol 8 Theater in Jefferson City, Missouri that sent an actor posing as a gunman with an automatic rifle last weekend should be shut down at least temporarily. The theater promoters did the stunt on the opening of the movie “Iron Man 3.” The rationalization that the theater operators used was that it was an attempt to make the theater going experience seem more realistic to patrons. They claimed that they often hire actors to portray characters in the movies to broaden the overall effect for movie goers.
While it is commendable that the theater promoters want to make the overall ambiance of the theater more realistic and exciting for customers, the decision to send an actor posing as a gunman with a fully automatic rifle into a crowded theater was very ill conceived and extremely insensitive to the customers and their own insecurities in light of the recent mass shooting in a theater in Aurora, Colorado that left 12 people dead and 58 other people injured. America as a whole is still grieving over the shootings in Aurora and the recent bombing in Boston. Violence and the fear of violence is no laughing matter. Entertain people yes; appeal to their innermost fears and anxieties in the name of fun? No! There simply is no justification for such insensitivity and downright stupidity on the behalf of the theater operators.
This author’s suggestion would be that the Mayor and City Council of Jefferson City suspend the business license of the Capitol 8 Theater for a period of 90 days, during which the employees of the theater, especially the theater operators and managers, undergo sensitivity training provided by the City but financed by the theater. If the theater employees all successfully complete the sensitivity training, then the theater will be provided a provisional license for 60 days. After the 60 days are up, the City will review the theater’s actions of the last 60 days and if all is satisfactory the theater will be granted its full operating license again.
When you consider how dangerous this whole scenario could have been for everyone if an undercover cop had been in the theater, or if a citizen with a concealed weapons permit had been in the theater, it is truly scary. As it was the police were called out as many terrified customers and onlookers called 9-1-1. The prank also could have caused widespread panic and trampling and injuries among the crowd. We truly are fortunate the situation did not turn out worse than it did.
Suspend the theater’s license. Require the employees to undergo sensitivity training and re-visit the theater’s actions after 60 days. As this author sees it, that is the very least that we can do in the wake of this horrific theater prank.