A Few Thoughts On Regal Cinema’s New Policy of Bag Checks to Ensure Gun-Free Zone

Why I don’t Go to Movie Theaters

When's the last time you went to the movies?

When’s the last time you went to the movies?

I stopped going to the movies a long time ago. My decision to avoid the theater experience was rooted in the pricey tickets, a movie I had watched in college (more on this later) and the general anxiety I feel when I’m sitting in a crowded dark room with a bunch of strangers.

It’s really old news but to take my girlfriend and I to a movie nowadays it takes nothing short of an arm and a leg. Between the tickets — around $15 each — the popcorn, the soda, the candy, etc., it’s not cheap. Unfortunately, I’m not made of money, so dropping $60 to go see the latest rom-com or action flick is just not worth it. I’d much rather wait until it comes out on DVD/TV/Digital Download, so we can watch it at home — on my 55 inch high-definition television.

On a side note, the waiting for a movie to be available for download (or Blu-ray/DVD) is not bad at all these days because, well, I can’t remember the last time I saw a movie trailer or read a review and was like “Oh my lord, we have to go see that movie!” Maybe I’m just more discerning now than I was when I was younger or maybe the stuff that Hollywood’s putting out just stinks.

In any event, aside from the money, I never really liked the theater experience. I always fell anxious in a theater. I worry about having to go to the bathroom, for example. What if I have to go and I’m seated in a middle seat in a large aisle (I always try to get an end seat, but sometimes you get there late and you have no other choice but a middle seat)? Do I just get up in the middle of the movie and make that awkward, disruptive walk toward the exit? I hate doing that! I know it annoys people. I feel their eyes on me and can read their inner thoughts: “Why didn’t you go before the movie started?” or “Just because you bought all that soda, doesn’t mean you had to drink it!” or “If I can hold it for 90 minutes, so can you!” I know it’s dark in there, but I can’t help the feeling that I’m being judged for doing what we all have to do.

Plus, when you’re exiting the aisle, there is always at least one disgruntled person — angry at the fact that nature’s calling you in the third act at a critical climactic moment, e.g. the the undercover agent is being discovered as a spy — who refuses to politely move their knees to the side and you either have to try to step over their legs or forcibly move their knees with your own, which in either case usually causes you to lose your balance. The person is seated, you’re standing, they win the center of gravity battle and you end up stumbling, which only causes you more shame and embarrassment.

Then, of course, after you’re done going to the bathroom, you’re filled with even more dread because you have to make your way back to the seat and once again disrupt the movie-going experience for all those in attendance, and run into the same impolite patron who tried to block you from leaving in the first place. It’s exhausting.

I’ll make one other compliant. That is, I tend to laugh at moments in movies that aren’t really supposed to be funny. I guess I have a morbid sense of humor. But in a poorly acted scene, when the old grandmother tells her young grandchildren that she’s terminally ill with cancer, I might let out a chuckle at the predictability of the writing or the campiness of the weeping children. To give you a reference point, I thought “The Sopranos” was hilarious (I know it’s not a movie, but the dark humor in that television series is unrivaled. The Christopher intervention scene is one of the funniest scenes in the entire series.) There’s no doubt that that pisses people off. On the other side of the equation, I can’t stand when people laugh at stupid, lowest-common-denominator jokes. Farts, for example. Really? You’re still laughing at fart jokes in movies? What are you 12-year-old? That drives me nuts. Yeah, sometimes they’re funny, but to watch people fall out of their seats at fart jokes just confuses me and jars my willful suspension of disbelief.

“Targets”

I mentioned that I watched a movie in college that also changed the way I thought about going to the movies. The movie I saw was “Targets,” and it was directed by Peter Bogdanovich. It was released in 1968. To say it was ahead of its time or that it was prescient is an understatement. I don’t want to reveal too much about the movie, for those of you who may want to watch it, but it’s about a sociopathic Vietnam combat veteran who turns into a mass-murdering sniper. It’s been awhile since I watched it, but I believe he kills his entire family before going off on his public rampage where he shoots motorists on a highway and, eventually, folks at a drive-in movie theater. Now, I saw this movie circa 2003, which was post Columbine and almost a decade before the 2013 mass shooting inside of a Century 16 movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, that left 12 people dead and 70 others injured (58 from gunfire, the other 12 from fleeing and tear gas).
Targets” stuck with me, over the years. It wasn’t a particularly good film, but viewing it changed the way I thought about public safety.

In 2003, several years after 911, we were all on guard, all looking over our shoulders. What I was on the lookout for wasn’t a lone gunman, but another coordinated attack on government targets (buildings, banks, monuments). It had never really occurred to me what one determined individual could do if they were hellbent on taking innocent lives. In Columbine, there were two gunmen. And I guess I viewed it as an aberration, an isolated incident where depressed and over-drugged kids randomly lashed out against those they viewed as the perpetrators of their misfortune. Of course, there was a lot more to it than that, but at the time, that’s how I saw it. I never really thought that much about what it would look like if it were to happen again (I also didn’t have much knowledge of the mass shootings that predated Columbine; I wasn’t aware of any trends). Then I saw “Targets.” And it struck a nerve. And I began to think that not only was another Columbine possible, but it was downright inevitable. Moreover, an attack of that magnitude didn’t require a team of two or more, it could be carried out by one resourceful and calculating sociopath.

I wasn’t really into guns at this point in my life. But the seeds were being planted. See, I began to assess the situations in which I was the most vulnerable: movie theaters, sporting events, concerts, classrooms, churches, airports, government buildings. Soon I realized that they all had something in common. In addition to being crowded venues, they were gun-free zones. Places were law-abiding citizens were defenseless against an attacker. I didn’t know much about self-defense or concealed carry at the time, but I did reckon that some armed resistance is better than none.  And gun-free zones just didn’t make any logical sense.

Regal Cinema Bag Check Policy

A lot has changed between now and then. Both you and I know full well the damage that these soulless mass killers can wreak: Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook, Isla Vista, Washington Navy Yard, Charleston Church, etc. The real question is whether we are better prepared to face this threat then we were before. I guess the answer to that question is a resounding “NO” if we are to take a look at the recent move by Regal Cinema to check the bags of patrons before they enter the movie theater. Apparently, it’s a strategy to help enforce the company’s ban on firearms.

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America,” said the company in a statement on its website. “Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

I don’t need to tell you how stupid this bag-check policy is. But just to entertain the the thought, some things to consider. First, I don’t know a lot of criminals who carry guns in a purse or bag. Typically, they’ll carry it on their person, around their waist. Is Regal Cinema going to pat down every patron? If so, how extensive will the body search be? Lines are already long at movie theaters. Second, I think this policy will unfairly target a lot of women. After all, they are the ones who typically bring bags and purses to the theaters. Just to ask the obvious, how often do women shoot up movie theaters, schools, churches? Answer, pretty much never. Lastly, bag checks don’t work. Even the most well-trained, well-funded professional bag inspectors equipped with the best technology fail approximately 95 percent of the time. That’s correct. You’ll recall the recent report that found the TSA’s failure rate on airport breach tests to be 95 percent. If TSA agents can’t do it right, and they’ve been extensively trained (or so we’re led to believe) then how does Regal Cinema expect its employees — a bunch of disaffected, acne-faced hipsters — to do it right?

Long story short, the bag check is an ineffectual policy that will does nothing to improve the safety of the theaters. Regal Cinema executives have to know that, which makes me wonder if the whole bag check policy isn’t just a ploy to go after the contraband that the executives are really concerned about: imported bulk candy, soda cans, kettle corn, etc.

Truth be told though, even if Regal Cinema wised up and said, you know what, we’re going to do a 180 and go from gun-free to gun-friendly, I’m not sure that would change how I feel about going to the movies. From a safety standpoint, even if you’re armed, you’re still a sitting duck. And let’s say shots do ring out, how well are you going to be able to get a bead on the shooter? It’s dark, it’s crowded, everyone is presumably in a panick. Do you draw your gun? Do you shoot in the direction of the shooter? Do you shoot it in the air to draw attention away from potential victims and startle the shooter (but thereby giving away your position)? What if there is another armed good-guy in the audience? Does he now think that you’re apart of the attack?

Final Thoughts

There are a million questions. There are. And I’m not suggesting that theaters should be gun-free zones, just merely pointing out that even if they’re gun-friendly, they still leave one relatively vulnerable. Gun-friendly is always better than gun-free but gun-friendly doesn’t necessarily mean optimally safe and secure. In a movie theater atmosphere, you’re an easy target, armed or otherwise.

Needless to say, it’s up to you to evaluate how and where you want to spend your hard earned money and the risks associated with those activities. For me, for a multitude of reasons (some discussed above), I’m going to pass on going to the movies. I’ll wait, and watch the next movie I want to see at home, on my 55” television, with my GF, my puppy, and a shotgun by my side (well, the shotgun’s in a conveniently located area, I’ll put it that way). And if nature calls during the viewing of the film, I’ll simply pause and take a free, unencumbered stroll to bathroom.

{ 25 comments… add one }
  • Peter Wall April 14, 2017, 7:31 am

    The significant person in my life, and I seldom go to the movies for several reasons and lack of security is but one. The lack of
    mobility for my self is the greatest factor. As others have stated generally poor sanitation, unruly patrons, high prices for poor quality products are all contributing factors. I am armed most any where I go unless limited by statuette. Businesses that limit my
    patronage on being armed don’t get my business. Every one should practice situational awareness no matter where they are.

  • George April 7, 2017, 7:39 pm

    The regal cinema is my town (sc)has done away with banning concieled carry. Where there was two signs before, they are no more. Finally!

  • jon April 7, 2017, 12:41 pm

    They are frisking you for pop and candy so you buy their’s

  • John Saunders April 7, 2017, 9:15 am

    The last movie I attended was Dancing with Wolves….two reasons, my personal security and my refusal to support any thing Hollywood weird! Sorry I practice what I preach, vote with your feet….

  • George August 25, 2015, 4:09 pm

    What a load of unmitigated crap. Poorly written, full of assumptions and frankly, I couldn’t stomach reading it to the end.

    Movie theaters are full of danger so we have to avoid them wah, wah wah. Just because you saw a movie when you were in college (and some of us were fighting in the military) which made you fill your pants doesn’t mean the rest of us think the same way. Jeez, what a whiny, scared little cry baby you are. Some of us LIKE movies; nothing like seeing some good action on a 20 foot tall screen which, with the latest surround sound, beats the piss out of your paltry 55 inch TV bub.
    Some basic ground rules for the movies:

    1. So what if they search bags? Your gun belongs ON YOU not in a bag.
    2. Carry your CCW, a spare mag, a fully charged powerful flashlight and a fully charged phone ON YOU.
    3. Don’t go to the first showings of a new movie; wait until its been out at least a week and go on a week day or an early showing. Doing so limits the number of people in the theater thus reducing the number of possible targets (more is better to the unhinged) and has the benefit of there being more and better seats available with less waiting.
    4. Get there early: buy your popcorn and drinks, get in the theater and select good seats. I prefer the VERY back row in the middle. I have a decent sized bladder and I piss BEFORE the movie….. 😉 Very back row is furthest from where a goblin may enter and increases reaction time for me.
    5. Stay until the VERY end of the credits: goblins want to harm as many people as possible so leaving late decreases your risk of being harmed. It also allows you to catch end of movie footage/bloopers/hidden extras and get out of the theater without waiting for others to leave. The bathrooms are usually empty of the post movie rush too.
    6. Have a PLAN if shit goes bad while in there. What you do is up to you; my family has specific instructions on what to do while I’m figuring out WTF is going on and responding as needed. I carry a badge for a living so I’m going to take action if its safe for my family and I to do so. Remember, this might not be an active shooter; it might also be a power outage or fire. Without a light and a plan, you are screwed.
    Stop with the pity party and grow a pair of balls……

  • Russ August 25, 2015, 10:05 am

    Thank you Regal cinemas, you just made it easier for me to not have to go to the theatre. You just made yourself a target by announcing the fact that the place will probably be full of targets/victims. You dont want my firearm in your theatre, thats fine its your theatre chain. But it is my money and I will spend it elsewhere. On demand and redbox are a lot cheaper. I will hold onto my money and spend it where I am not pre judged as a SHEEP. I hope you go into bankruptcy and have to close because of this idiotic idea.

  • Scott August 25, 2015, 7:50 am

    Sorry for my rant.

  • Scott August 25, 2015, 2:07 am

    Do what I do, carry where ever you want, as long as you have state I.D. Especially gun free zones.

  • DaveW August 24, 2015, 3:25 pm

    Practically nothing will deter a determined nutjob. Review the evidence in the Colorado theater shooting. It’s a dangerous world. Those who avoid it’s risks play into the hands of terrorists. The surrender their freedom for a sense of security and gain neither. The dedicated terrorist will take as long as necessary to achieve the goal as evidenced by the Bath School Disaster (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bath_School_disaster) which exceeded Sandy Hook in it’s devastation.

    As for theaters themselves. Anyone remember drive-ins? They went the way of the Dodo. Theaters are following the same path thanks to modern home electronics. Cable is on it’s way out. Streaming is taking over. Soon, there will be no reason to leave home for entertainment.

    • DaveGinOly August 24, 2015, 6:08 pm

      In CO, the shooter didn’t enter the theater armed. He parked his car just outside an exit. He entered the theater normally, and then during the movie propped open the exit door, retrieved weapons from his car, and re-entered the theater. Unless Regal posts guards at the exits, they’re doing nothing but encouraging shooters to be creative about how they get guns into a theater.

      BTW, I go to movies all the time, all of the (fake) gun-free zones. I’m armed every single time. A buddy I meet there always asks, “What are you carrying today?”

  • Tommy August 24, 2015, 10:39 am

    Churches scare me just as much.

    Our local Church has a “security element” mostly of off-duty police that wander around with “Shoot Me First” vest’s on. They think I’m a bit nuts when I ask them to not stick around me. I hate being that close to a target.

  • Michael August 24, 2015, 10:37 am

    Agree – Many years ago I too stopped going to the overpriced, smelly, dirty movie theaters, staffed by young, inexperienced and unmotivated staff, and I have never looked back. However, one of the things that the NRA and the GOA et al are missing is the leverage (and influence) they have over film companies and Hollywood in general. I have suggested to both the NRA and GOA, that when a new movie is being announced for release, if that film company, director, or stars have expressed anti-gun or anti-freedom opinions or have publicly come out against gun owners in general, or if the movie is deemed “anti-gun,” these two organizations should send out email, Facebook/twitter, and print notices to their members urging them to boycott the release of the film. We as a group have tremendous economic power and influence we are not using wisely. To date, neither the NRA nor the GOA have chosen to take this approach, an approach that could certainly prove to be effective. Lets urge our gun organizations to take this approach as one more tool to fight the uninformed and anti-American groups out there.

  • TrueBlueInfidel August 24, 2015, 10:22 am

    I suspect the real reason behind the bag check is discourage people from bringing in their own food and snacks to avoid the outrageous cost of their popcorn and candy. Claiming the bag-check is intended to enforce their firearm ban is an attempt to put a positive spin on what is really and act of greed.

  • Ram6 August 24, 2015, 9:35 am

    This is nothing but a feel good policy on the part of Regal Theatres. A committed individual willing to shoot up a movie theatre isn’t going to sneak in a gun in a handbag or back pack. He’s going to carry it on his person (can you say “pat down”) and I don’t think patting down every customer is going to work. Having a “gun free zone” policy merely encourages the bad guys as the theatre is now the softest target they can find, and they have publicly admitted as much.

    Either install metal detectors which would be incredibly impractical in a movie theatre or post armed security which is an expense the theatre chain isn’t ready to absorb and there is no guarantee that either is going to deter a determined individual. So the reality is this does nothing but give the movie going public, who don’t know any better, a false sense of security. All in all this policy by Regal Theatres isn’t just stupid it borders on moronic.

  • Infidel7.62 August 24, 2015, 9:00 am

    We stopped going to the movies years ago, the though was if the bozos in hollywood don’t support our rights we should not be supporting them with our dollars. The only exception in the last 10 years being American Sniper. My thoughts are if Regal wants to be a self defense prohibited zone I will treat them like any other business that prohiibts self defense and won’t go there. If my gun isn’t welcome than neither are my dollars.

  • F.U. Blannelberry August 24, 2015, 7:34 am

    Who edits your work, a chimpanzee? The ridiculousness of this piece aside (seriously get help), the multiple grammatical errors lead me to believe that most of your college years were spent watching movies. Which community college did you flunk out of again?

  • Jay August 24, 2015, 7:07 am

    I agree with most of you assessment of the theatre experience! I’ll go out and enjoy a steak dinner long before a movie! Let me sum it up. This is just another move to appease the drone people who can not think for themselves and provide them with yet another means of a false sense of security! Much like the so called “gun control” scam!

  • Walkabout August 24, 2015, 5:52 am

    I very wise old Army Sgt (my dad) told me … First rule of staying alive was be aware of your surroundings ! Always have a plan, without a plan your are lost! Shoot, move and communicate! Train to fight, cover and concealment . Shoot like you mean it , so you hit what you aim at. Stand up and act like an Man!

  • Michael Noel August 24, 2015, 4:13 am

    I agree with all your points & expressed them locally in comments to newspaper articles and local news stations. My biggest concern is that if you have a sociopath that is intent to bring weapons & ammo to a theatre with the intent to shoot the place up, the only thing that will be accomplished with a highs school kid checking his bag is that he no doubt will start with the high school kid and he will be moving up his start time of his shooting. After the numerous shootings and bombings that have occurred over the past dating back to OK, our state government placed signs at the entrance of state buildings stating, “No guns or weapons beyond this point.”
    I felt so much relieved and safer knowing that this would deter a sick person from completing their planned attack.

    • 380BG2go August 25, 2015, 11:48 am

      45caliber, that was hilarious. They MUST have intended for it to be funny! No theaters for me either…not safe; not affordable.

  • Kerry August 24, 2015, 2:52 am

    Excellent writing. Great command of the English language. But, you should know the difference between “your” and “you’re”.

    • Common Sense, Please August 26, 2015, 2:07 am

      And “me” and “I.”

  • DRAINO August 23, 2015, 8:04 am

    I agree with most of your assessment, Mr. Blannelberry, and I seldom go to gun-free-target-rich areas and dislike crowds in general, I do occasionally go to a movie. And while our local Regal cinema does the bag checks, I simply CC and have my wife leave hers in the car(while not optimal, we have decided that atleast one of us will always be armed unless there is no way around it. And if not, we avoid the scenario all together). And while no one can argue with the convenience of watching movies in the safety of our homes, we can’t, nor should we live in fear of living our lives and enjoying our communities. If we do, then the bad guys have won. We all have to do our own version of “risk assessment” before we make our choices. I believe that community security is EVERYONE’s responsibility….including ME. Two concepts (risk assessment and security is everyone’s job) that the military have helped entrench in my everyday life. While I assess the risk, I know that my community is more secure and safe because I am in it….and armed. I am no vigilante nor “Rambo” nor hero. But I will not go gently into that good night. I will not give into to the bad guys. I will live free or die trying.

    • Steve Sparks August 24, 2015, 7:28 am

      Even more reason to stop going to movies to see propaganda and fund anti liberty campaigns of these scum.

    • DJ Bucciarelli August 24, 2015, 11:24 am

      You kinda skipped over the deterrent effect that a gun friendly policy can create. Even if no one in the theater is carrying, the bad guy doesn’t know that, and may choose a different venue or cancel his plans entirely. They are cowards, after all.

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