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From 'Godfather III' to 'Dark Knight Rises': A History of Violence in U.S. Theaters

Dark Knight Rises Shooting Caution Tape - H 2012
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Gang-related shootings and angry patrons have sometimes seen trips to the movies end in tragedy.

The news of the shootings at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises continues to hit the moviegoing world hard.

Sadly, it was not the first time violence has erupted in U.S. theaters. From gang-related violence to encounters with angry patrons, a number of people have fallen victim to random acts of violence while trying to enjoy a night at the movies.

Here are the worst of these rare, but tragic, occurrences:

Colors (1988)

Thirteen young men were arrested in Los Angeles during the 1988 opening weekend of Colors, a film chronicling the the LAPD's fight against gang violence. The two groups of men, believed by police to be gang members, came to blows outside a theater that was screening the film. Several other suspected gang members were arrested at theaters around the city, amid protests urging theaters not to show the film. Members of the Guardian Angels carried signs reading "Colors Will Kill Kids" and "Don't Show Colors in L.A.” and police in cities including Chicago, New York City and Miami were put on alert for the premiere.

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The Godfather Part III (1990)

Gang violence erupted during a showing of The Godfather III in Long Island, N.Y. when two groups of men — one in the front row and one near the back — began arguing and opened fire. No gang members were injured by the shots, but four bystanders were, including a 15-year-old who was killed.

Boyz n the Hood (1991)

Though the film was critical of gang violence, one death and multiple assaults surrounded the July 1991 premiere of Boyz n the Hood. A 23-year-old man was shot and killed in Chicago, and a 15-year-old in suburban Seattle was stabbed during the film's premiere weekend. Dozens others were injured, as well.

"My heart goes out to the families of the people that were hurt. I am very disappointed because that's not what my film is about. This movie is about family, love and friendship,” the film’s director, John Singleton, said of the violence.

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Juice (1992)

When the Tupac Shakur-starrer Juice hit theaters in January 1992, violence broke out in multiple states, resulting in the death of a 16-year-old Chicago girl. In addition, an 18-year-old in Philadelphia was paralyzed after he was shot leaving a theater, and gunfire between two groups of young people erupted in a Lansing, Mich. cinema. In response, distributor Paramount Pictures offered to pay for extra security for theaters who requested it.

But on the 20th anniversary of its release, the film was screened for at-risk youth to spark conversation about the dangers of gang violence.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006)

Paul Schrum, 62, was shot and killed in an apparent random attack as he watched the third X-Men film with friends in a suburban Baltimore theater. About 20 minutes into the show, a 24-year-old man stood up and told the audience to lie on the ground. He then fired four shots before walking into the lobby and waiting for the police to come. Police speculated Schrum was chosen simply because he was the closest target.

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"I will probably never understand why God has chosen to do that to me,” the victims’ wife, Rona Schrum told the Baltimore Sun afterward.  She learned of her husband’s death after she drove to the theater looking for him and saw police surrounding his car.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008)

James Joseph Cialella, then 29, was charged with shooting the father of a family who he complained was talking during a Christmas Day showing of the Brad Pitt film. Cialella allegedly threw popcorn at the man’s son and then shot the man in the arm at a Riverview, Pa. theater.

The Matrix Trilogy

Several people have claimed the sci-fi trilogy brought them to murder--sometimes years after the films hit theaters. Speculation continues to abound that the perpetrators of the 1999 Columbine Massacre were somehow influenced by the original film, which opened several weeks prior to the mass shooting.

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In 2003, the lawyers of a 19-year-old who killed his parents said his client believed he lived inside the Matrix, while in 2007, a man who killed his landlady claimed to have been “sucked into the Matrix."

The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

A masked gunman killed 12 people and wounded dozens more at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colo. James Holmes, 24, has been identified as the suspect.