TSA At The Movies: Theater Chain Looks To Bring Security Theater To The Movie Theater

from the more-hassle,-same-safety dept

Thanks to a string of theater-related tragedies, going to the theater is about to become as enjoyable as going to the airport.

Following two recent deadly incidents at movie theatres in the US, the Regal Entertainment Group – the nation’s largest movie theater chain – this week added a bag and purse check policy as a security measure in some of the 569 theaters it operates.

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres,” the chain said in a statement.

This may sound like a harmless bit of “doing something” in response to a few tragic incidents, but there’s nothing really harmless about it.

First off, it subjects everyone to the same level of scrutiny — provided they’re carrying a bag of some sort. If you have a purse or backpack or (god forbid) a fanny pack, you’re a potential threat. Everyone else? Free to go. Weapons tucked into waistbands or shoved into pockets will go undetected.

And, like the TSA its emulating, the security measures will be easily thwarted and ultimately useless. For every weapon the TSA brags about seizing, many more end up on planes. A recent audit of the TSA’s security efforts found it missed 95% of smuggled weapons and explosives. Anyone thinking Regal’s security force is going to be better trained and more thorough than the TSA is kidding themselves.

Like the TSA’s efforts, this will give moviegoers the illusion of safety, rather than actual safety. An illusion might be comforting enough for most moviegoers and it’s all Regal can actually offer. This move is more about PR than reality.

According to a new survey conducted by consumer research film C4, following the Nashville incident, 48% of moviegoers are willing to pay $1 or more per ticket for the additional measures. Nineteen per cent of respondents said they would pay $3 or more.

And I’m sure Regal will be more than happy to take $1-3 more from every moviegoer in exchange for a hassling a few moviegoers. But Regal’s move — while good-intentioned — is ill-advised. Offering your customers mostly-theoretical protection places responsibility for any future shootings almost solely on each individual theater. Now, if anyone shoots up a theater, Regal will very likely be successfully targeted in wrongful death suits. After all, it instituted additional measures to prevent further shootings… and then failed to prevent a shooting from happening. The additional measures seem unlikely to dissuade anyone but the most easily-deterred shooters from following through with their plans. In exchange for little more than a temporary bump in goodwill, Regal is assuming a great deal of liability.

And given what we know about the most recent theater shootings, a bag check wouldn’t have stopped anything. James Holmes, who killed 12 and wounded 70 in Aurora, CO, stashed his weapons in his vehicle. The shooter in Louisiana may have had a backpack (reports are inconclusive), but it wasn’t on or near him when police got to him, and a controlled detonation later proved there was nothing harmful inside it. The shooter at the Antioch, TN theater was carrying two backpacks — one of which was strapped across his chest. When police engaged him, he was also wearing a surgical mask. Most of what was in his bags weren’t actually weapons, though. Pepper spray, a hatchet and an Airsoft gun were used in the theater attack. Only one of these is an actual weapon, and Regal’s new policy doesn’t make it clear what will happen to those who bring in legal items that aren’t weapons but the theater decides could be deployed as one.

This focus on bags also makes it clear to potential attackers that security will be looking out for one thing — backpacks and bags. Avoiding scrutiny simply means not doing that one thing. So, while some moviegoers will be comforted by this security charade being performed on their behalf, many more will be irritated that attending a movie will be nearly as annoying as boarding a plane.

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Comments on “TSA At The Movies: Theater Chain Looks To Bring Security Theater To The Movie Theater”

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That One Guy (profile) says:


As if I really needed more reason to never to to the theater beyond not wanting to support people that hold me in contempt, pay insane prices for tickets and snacks, be bombarded by countless ads prior to the film, and be surrounded by idiots who can’t tear themselves away from their electronic devices for longer than 5-minutes.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Re: Re: Awesome

If it was only about the crowds, or the prices, or the ads, I could probably find some way to reduce the annoyance, but none of that would fix the #1 problem, that of giving money to groups that hold me in contempt and have a long and consistent history of doing everything they can to screw as many people as they can.

No theater experience, no matter how good, would be worth knowingly handing money to people and groups like that.

Arizona says:

Re: Awesome

YOU may not be OLD enough to remember the DRIVEIN theaters,but you drove in,paid your money and watched the movies,every weekend they were packed,THEN hollywood decided they could take over ALL the theaters by stopping the releast of pictures to all the driveins and get all the money for them selves,AT THEIR WALK IN THEATERS,so hows it working out for you america,GOT SCREWED AGAIN DID YOU..THIS country is slowly working its way into the bottom of trash can……

Mason Wheeler (profile) says:

Pepper spray, a hatchet and an Airsoft gun were used in the theater attack. Only one of these is an actual weapon

Which one would that be?

Pepper spray is a non-lethal weapon, intended for defensive use, but it can certainly be used offensively to attack and disable someone.

A hatchet is a tool for splitting wood, but it can be (ab)used as a weapon.

An Airsoft gun is a gun, and while it does not fire bullets or use gunpowder for propellant, and is principally intended for use as part of a team sports game, there’s a very good reason why Airsoft players are required to wear goggles and other basic body protection at any reputable Airsoft range.

So how do you figure that one of those three “is a weapon” and the other two aren’t?

mattshow (profile) says:

Re: Re:

I came to say the same thing. When I read that paragraph, it wasn’t at all clear to me which of the three items listed was the “actual” weapon, even though the tone of the sentence suggests it should be obvious.

Even if, as John states, Tim intended to say “weapons that pose a serious threat”, I don’t see how that’s at all relevant. Their policy doesn’t mention weapons at all. Their policy just states that they’re trying to ensure the “comfort and safety” of their guests and employees. So the question of whether something is or is not a weapon that poses a serious threat is irrelevant. Pepper spray and hatchets and airsoft guns can all cause some serious discomfort.

(As an aside, Wikipedia states that pepper spray has led to deaths in some cases, but without a citation. So it’s possible that at least two of those items pose a serious threat).

JoeCool (profile) says:

Re: Re:

He meant actually IS a weapon as far as LEOs are concerned while the other two MAY BE used as a weapon but aren’t considered one in the day-to-day scheme of things.

And pepper spray is the answer. In places where weapons are banned, pepper spray WILL get you arrested where the other two may or may not. In fact, many places now ban pepper spray just like they previously banned mace.

Anonymous Coward says:

While you can argue that this is bad business if it’s not the government doing or requiring or encouraging it then it’s simply a business decision. I think it should be left up to businesses to decide how they want to handle their security. If you don’t like it then they have the right to refuse service. It’s their business on their private (rented or owned) property.

Just like I don’t mind the airlines, as a private entity, doing luggage checks and whatnot. People may offer them suggestions on how they can be more secure and less invasive as a business but, as private entities, they have that right. Also as private entities theaters and airlines should have some civil responsibility of ensuring safety against terrorist, muggers, etc… or else face possible lawsuits. What we could argue is to what extent they should face liability for failure to provide a safe environment to customers/passengers. But by holding the liable for not offering a safe environment when someone gets hurt I think the private sector is best suited for making an effort of finding the best ways to spend resources efficiently to ensure the safety of customers while minimizing their invasion of privacy so they don’t lose business.

The TSA, OTHO, is a governmental violation of our rights and customers have fewer option in terms of protesting by simply choosing another government. The businesses themselves also have fewer options in terms of finding better ways to provide security while accommodating customer privacy when something so specific is imposed on them by law (though they do have some options because they have a strong lobbying influence). If customers feel a private business does too much to invade privacy they can go somewhere else (or go without). This can encourage businesses to find better ways to ensure safety while still not invading privacy. But when it comes to government we are much more or less stuck with their decisions short of our ability to vote for different representatives (or move to another country I suppose). Since their decisions are much more far reaching and less optional we should do more to ensure they don’t do anything to invade our privacy.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Makes me wish I went to Regal theaters before, so that I could stop now

I agree. I resist going to the theaters when friends want to go because I don’t think they deserve my money. This is just another reason to refuse going.

While I respect their right as a business to do this it is my right as a customer to boycott them.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Not their responsibility to ensure safety

and it is their responsibility as a business to find better ways of keeping us safe without invading our privacy.

All else being equal, a safe experience is better than an unsafe one. I agree that a pro-privacy safety enhancement is better than what they are proposing. I do not agree that theaters in particular have any obligation to make us safer, even if they could do it in a privacy-respecting way. People individually, and society collectively, are responsible for a safe environment. The business’s only responsibility is to avoid unnecessary anti-safety measures, such as actively making it easier for criminals to commit their crimes (mugger-friendly alleys, convoluted roads/corridors that slow down emergency responders, etc.).

Given the number of theater shootings per year versus the number of years theaters have been open to the general public, I consider theaters to be reasonably safe from shootings even without any specialized security measures. Thus, I am perfectly fine with theaters not taking extra measures to make me safer.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Makes me wish I went to Regal theaters before, so that I could stop now

“it is their responsibility as a business to find better ways of keeping us safe”

I disagree. It is their responsibility to show mindless, expensive entertainment without putting us in danger or being dangerously negligent. It is not their responsibility to find better ways of keeping us safe.

Anonymous Coward says:

The only thing this is going to accomplish is force more movegoers to avoid Regal theaters. The TSA has become a dangerous nuisance to Americans in this country. They started out in airports and expanded to bus stations, highways and now they want to expand to movie theaters? No way in hell would I consent to my personal things being searched by the TSA outside of an airport. Not unless they have a search warrant issued by a recognizable court, and NOT a FISA court.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

48% of moviegoers are willing to pay $1 or more per ticket for the additional measures. Nineteen per cent of respondents said they would pay $3 or more.

My chances of getting prostate cancer are vastly greater than being killed in a theatre shooting. That doesn’t mean I’d pay to be tested as I enter the theatre.

Well, maybe for an Adam Sandler movie. It would improve the ambiance.

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:


Should we perhaps stop running blindly to the fast “fix” that does nothing of benefit for people?

We have in this country some serious issues that a fucking bag check will not fucking fix.
– Our mental health system has failed. Those who require help are priced out of getting the help they need. Their illness is seen as some sort of punishment from a higher power, and as long as they aren’t panhandling & bothering me I don’t have to care… until the voices tell them the blood god demands blood.
– Which leads to the insanity of MOAR GUNS! FEWER CHECKS! My right to bear arms trumps common fucking sense! The system is woefully inadequate to keep weapons out of the hands of those who legally can not possess them. But this hot button issue results in its own form of mental illness, helped along with the ‘the secret mooslim president is gonna take yer guns!!!’ rhetoric.

We have more weapons than rational people should need, they are stolen, pawned, and vanish from the grid until someone is murdered. Even those charged with protecting citizens can’t keep track of their caches.

We do have many more problems, but we care more about weapons than making sure our neighbors are well. It has a tragic cost, and instead of deciding society would be better off if we showed actual concern about those who need help we decide that some security theatre will solve it (or at least shut people up until the next one… then more theatre… until the next one… then more theatre… until the next one…

At what point is the bodycount high enough to admit that as a society we keep failing those who need help because we “needed” a tax break and to stop protecting the least of us?

That Anonymous Coward (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’m more entertained that you think my entire response was demanding a war on guns, totally ignoring the point that we spend more time fighting over guns than putting any effort into helping the mentally ill in this country.

Thanks for proving my point that fucking guns are more important than human lives in this country.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Guns are scary.

Mentally ill people are on very rare occasions scary and the rest of the time sad and embarrassing.

And we human beings like to freak out about the scary and pretend the sad and embarrassing will go away if we stop looking at it.

The consequences of this is that more people who feel the need to be heard are going to take the scary route.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Utterly depressing

48% of moviegoers are willing to pay $1 or more per ticket for the additional measures. Nineteen per cent of respondents said they would pay $3 or more.

This is utterly depressing. I cannot imagine a circumstance in which I would be willing to undergo a bag check just to go to a movie theater.

But people are willing to pay to be subjected to this?? That’s pure insanity.

Roger Strong (profile) says:

Re: Utterly depressing

The poll was conducted “following the Nashville incident.”

The thing to remember about such polls is that they’re often done not for research, but to back an agenda.

Working for a computer store a couple decades ago I did a lot of service calls to a polling firm. Customers – political parties, corporations and unions – would tell them the result they wanted, and the polling firm would produce in impeccably valid poll to produce those results.

Results could be tailored based on where they called. Rural farm areas vs rural non-farming areas vs inner city vs middle class suburban vs wealthy suburban areas would produce predictably different results. And of course how the questions were phrased made a huge difference.

A poll on theatre searches done “following the Nashville incident” smells of being tailored to fit a desired result.

Anonymous Coward says:

Fuck the MPAA.

I recently set up my own home theater and I am loving it to death. It definitely beat the traditional theater experience. Until 3DVR Theaters become commonplace, the next best thing is to pick up a projector and speaker set.

I recommend grabbing this projector. It is simply amazing.
My only complaint is that the sound quality is abysmal on the built-in speaker. I would recommend also picking up an HDMI box that splits the audio so you can hook up 5.1 or 7.1 speakers.

Fuck the MPAA.

DeadBolt (profile) says:

48% of moviegoers are willing to pay $1 or more per ticket for the additional measures. Nineteen per cent of respondents said they would pay $3 or more

HOnestly, I’m surprised at the LOW percentage, since they put the questions to their Board of Directors, but then again, they are a bunch of money-grubbing arseholes that that percentage is actually reasonable for them. (not that they’d ever actually PAY to go watch a movie)

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Want to ACTUALLY deter these shooting?

Excellent idea. Also, stop turning the site into monuments to the asshole. Like that school in wherever where they turned the room where most of the violence occurred into the Some Asshole and His Buddy National Monument.

I’m sure no one remembers the names of the people who got killed there, but everybody remembers Some Asshole and His Buddy who did the killing.

DOlz (profile) says:

Just sent this email

While the TSA is unresponsive to public opinion, Regal which depends on the public for its livelihood might take this letter seriously if enough people join in.


I just read about your plan to institute a Security Theater plan so it looks like your doing something. Like the TSA this is a bad joke to make people afraid and give up their privacy rights. This band-aid approach will do nothing to stop the next tragedy and distracts from real problems in our society that will take time and effort to solve. Because of this I will not be going to any Regal Cinema and will be encouraging other to do the same until you revoke this benighted policy.


Michael (profile) says:

I went to the movies last night and had to take my shoes off and stand in the naked scanner to get in. They then made me sit in an uncomfortable chair and wait until just before the movie started. It was delayed because of some issue with the projector so it started late. Once they were ready, they called us into the theater in groups and took my bag just before entering because it may not have fit under the seat in front of me. Once the movie was done, I had to stand around waiting for my bag to be returned but after an hour they told me it was at a different theater and I would have to go there to pick it up.

Anon says:

Total Security Theater

OK, this won’t do much except give Regal’s management a warm fuzzy feeling while adding absolutely nothing to security. Last night we caught a 8pm movie, lightly attended theater that night, the ticket checker politely asked and quickly glanced at my wife’s purse an waved us in, no real delay.

However….he missed the pepper spray and folding knife (both legal) that were sitting in plain sight in her purse…oh and he didn’t even look at me and was probably completely oblivious to the fact that I was legally CCW and carrying a handgun, extra magazine and a folding knife on my person.

I’m not sure exactly what the management thinks this will accomplish except to be a visual deterrent for those who aren’t intent on breaking the law in the first place. Those who are intent on doing harm will likely just barge in, smoke the poor unarmed ticket checker and everyone in the lobby on their way into a theater….

This “Security Measure” changes little, it just makes the first victim a theater employee (which I suppose is noble of management to volunteer one of their minimum wage staff as cannon fodder, not so good for the poor ticket checker though).

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

A long time ago on television...

I remember an episode of The West Wing in which Toby Zeigler suggested to President Bartlet to put Airport Security on alert (I forget what incident inspired the suggestion.)

To which he replied “inconvenience”

Stepping up airport security adds one to three hours to travel time for an awful lot people and that amount of inconvenience puts a bit pall on everybody’s day.

Just because an attack got through once.

Andrew D. Todd (user link) says:

A Question About the Food

I feel sort of remote from this subject, because it has been such a long time since I have been in any kind of movie theater. The last time I was in a mainstream movie theater was in spring, 1981, and the last time I was in an art movie house, showing Ingmar Bergman, Fellini, the 1970’s Australian movies, and suchlike, was in spring 1986. The last time I was in a university showing of a movie, independent of a particular class, was in spring 1990 (The Peyote Hunt, an anthropological film, obtained and shown by the anthropology department, with my professor giving a running commentary). The last time I was in a university showing of a movie, restricted to a small class, was in fall 1994 (an old silent movie, Abel Gance, Napoleon, 1927, in a French History graduate seminar). I’ve long since become accustomed to thinking of movies as something one views at home, just like reading a book.

A question for people who have been to the movies within the last couple of decades: What kind of food can you get at the concession stand. Can you get mineral water? Can you get some fruit, say, an orange or an apple, or a small bag of raw walnuts? Older people don’t live on popcorn, and it’s normal for a lot of women to carry around a supply of things they can eat and drink. That’s a considerable part of what they keep in their big purses.

Stray Dawg (user link) says:

Civil liberties

TSA is unconstitutional. Americans 4th Amend. Is being violated and nobody does anything about it , America lives in a militarized police state now and you don’t even know that it’s happened.No knock raids and warrant less searches are unconstitutional and very common to the bloody tune of approx. 80,0000 raids per year in the U.S.Read the book by John Whitehead a constitutional attorney,the book is Battlefield America:The war against the American people.America has allowed given up all of its freedoms and liberties to be made void inactive for the purposes of national security or for so called safety reasons.Give up all your rights for a little bit of safety how sad.

Security Fail says:

I DO NOT need to have my balls checked at the Movies. So, if getting irradiated and groped get’s you feeling safe and/or hot…go for it!

Everyone that isn’t a felon needs to be a trained, armed citizen at ALL TIMES. But, if you prefer to be a victim-in-waiting that’s your Right, too. Remember, the Supreme Court ruled that the police are NOT obligated to protect you.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Re:

Remember, the Supreme Court ruled that the police are NOT obligated to protect you.

Odd that, but there was a similar story, I think came out of Canada – 3IC in the 5-I coalition – a decade or so ago, about a pair of criminals let out on a weekend pass who did not return. The government failed to note their absence from the prison roster for a week or two apparently.

The 2 crooks went on a crime spree and at some point raped a woman after stabbing her in the throat.

They left her for dead but she survived and later, tried to sue the Canadian government, claiming it was their responsibility to insure that incarcerated murderers were kept away from the citizenry and not allowed to roam free.

The courts there ruled the same way – that the government of Canada was under no obligation at all to protect individual Canadian citizens. Case dismissed.

It appears that none of the 5-I nation’s governments – that’s the folks sporting the White Hats with the words Good Guy on the front – have any actual responsibility to the people who pay their wages.

Their real job is to protect and promote their own members’ and their associates’ businesses and incomes apparently. The general public is little more than another natural resource, to be used as needed. Hardly any wonder that such a regime would eventually turn to full fascism. More amazing is that it did not do so long ago… but that likely has to do with finally achieving technological excellence in surveillance first.

Anonymous Coward says:

One More Reason to Torrent and Stream

…their theatrical security theater would not detect my airweight Chief’s Special in my pocket, my Model 19 S&W in shoulder holster, my Colt Series 80 Officers ACP on my hip (under an untucked shirt) or any of my various cutlery or chemical weapons.

Thank goodnes all the women (and girly men, who carry “purses”) will be disarmed…I feel safer already. s

In a related story, VPN sales soared…

Personanongrata says:

Down with Security Theater

First the blue-shirts came to the airports, then bus/train stations, then concert and sporting venues, then road side xray scans, then movie theater pat downs.

First you put the frogs into a pot of warm water then you incrementally bring the water to a boil and before the frogs know they’re kaput!

Same goes for invasive/unconstitutional security theater first you condition people to expect security theater in airports, then at bus/train stations, then sporting venues, then the roadside, then movie theaters and by now most people are conditioned to willingly accept security theater in their daily lives they will not think twice when security theater begins at their childs school or at the mall or supermarket. Good frogs.

Boycott Regal Theaters, boycott flying by air, boycott any business that needs to treat you like a criminal in order for you to attend, defund DHS/TSA.

GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Down with Security Theater

We are sorry, but ….brrrr…boycott….brrrr…. is an unspeakable word that does not promote Shop-Till-You-Drop, and We The People are simply not programmed for anything beyond purchasing, buying, owning, sales, bargains, 10%, 20%, 30%, 40%, 50%, 60% off!!!, reduced price, getitwhileitshot, and shopping, shopping, shopping, oh blissful, wonderful shopping!!!.

And we’re pretty darned sure that boycott does not mean shopping… and that it has a lot to do with the notion of “doing without”, or “not owning”, or something like that…..

If turning the tide away from a future of fascist totalitarianism actually depends on We The People using our awesome and massive purchasing power to NOT BUY STUFF from the Billionaires in Power, then we are absolutely doomed.

So We The People have decided to simply grab our Credit Cards and go Shopping, oh blissful, wonderful Shopping, until whatever happens, happens.


GEMont (profile) says:

Re: Down with Security Theater

Actually, I think your Frog in water scenario is 100% correct.

If one looks back a mere twenty years, the notion that the USA would be like it is today would have made people back then laugh out loud at such “foolishness” and doomsday thinking.

In fifteen years from now, when the police walk the streets in groups of five, wearing full metal armor, bearing heavy assault weapons and a variety of anti-personnel frequency generators, and curfew is at 9PM, and more citizens are killed annually by government forces than by auto accidents, clinical drugs, and alcohol combined, we will all likely look back at these early 21st century years as the Good Old Days.

Ribbitt. Ribbbbittt. Rib….gah!

Elle says:


You seem to forget that in each and everyone of these instances the shooter actually had to bring the weapons INTO the theater. They would have had to go through weapon wielding security agents and metal detectors to commit their crimes of mayhem with the new security measures. I have seen the results of the missed items at security checkpoints, and those reports are very inconclusive. They included Orlando International Airport, a notoriously bad airport, that if memory serves me correctly they use a private security force that has no ties to The Department of Homeland Security like 95% of airport security does.

nasch (profile) says:

Re: Really?

I have seen the results of the missed items at security checkpoints, and those reports are very inconclusive. They included Orlando International Airport, a notoriously bad airport, that if memory serves me correctly they use a private security force that has no ties to The Department of Homeland Security like 95% of airport security does.

So you’re suggesting that A) movie theater security would be significantly better than that and B) DHS-operated airport security is top notch?

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