A History of Violence in Movie Theaters

Dark Knight Shooting Police Theater Exterior - P 2012
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Dark Knight Shooting Police Theater Exterior - P 2012

The shooting in Aurora, Colo. might be the worst, but it's not the first time guns and theater audiences mixed.

This story first appeared in the August 3 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine.

Aurora's shooting might be the worst, but it's not the first.

The Warriors (1979) At a drive-in theater in Palm Springs, members of the Blue Coats, an African-American gang, got into it with members of a white gang, The Family. A 19-year-old member of The Family was shot to death. The next night in Oakland, a fight broke out in a lobby, resulting in the death of Timothy Gitchel, 18. A third killing came days later near a theater in Dorchester, Mass.: Two gang members stabbed 16-year-old Marty Yakubowicz.

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New Jack City (1991) Violence surrounding this drug-trade movie led to one death, multiple injuries and more than a dozen arrests. An 18-year-old man was arrested for murdering Gabriel Williams, 19, while in a ticket line in New York. In L.A., when a Westwood theater oversold tickets, 1,500 people rioted and began looting nearby stores for more than two hours. Nine people were arrested. Warner Bros. provided extra security starting with the following weekend.

Boyz n the Hood (1991) On the opening weekend of John Singleton's semiautobiographical drama (four months after New Jack City's release), there were incidents nationwide, leading to one death and 33 people wounded. In Chicago, a 23-year-old man was shot to death. In Minneapolis, four people were shot from a moving vehicle. In Seattle, violence broke out in a theater parking lot, where a 15-year-old boy was stabbed and 11 people were arrested.

X-Men: The Last Stand (2006) Half an hour into a Baltimore showing of the film, 25-year-old med student and sci-fi fan Mujtaba Jabbar took out a .357-caliber revolver and shot the man in front of him, Paul Schrum, 62, four times in the head, arm and chest. Jabbar then walked to the lobby, put his gun on the counter and told the manager to call the police. Asked by a policeman why he did it, Jabbar said he was mad "because of the way things are going in my life."

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008) On a Christmas Day showing of this Brad Pitt movie, James Joseph Cialella Jr. pulled a gun and shot another inside a theater because Cialella thought the man and his family were talking too loudly. Cialella then calmly sat down and continued watching the movie until the Philadelphia police arrived and arrested him for attempted murder, aggravated assault, weapons violations and more.

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Shutter Island (2010) In Lancaster, Calif., a man complained about a woman in the theater who was talking on her cell phone. The woman left with two men, one of whom returned minutes later and stabbed the complainer in the neck with a meat thermometer, sending him to the hospital with a serious brain injury that left him comatose. Acting on a tip, police arrested 39-year-old Landry Boullard, who would be sentenced to 40 years in prison.