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What's Next For Theater After The Aurora Shooting?


In Aurora, Colorado, the Century Aurora 16 Cineplex remains closed. It was the site of the mass shooting last month during a midnight premiere of "The Dark Knight Rises." Twelve people were killed; 58 others injured. Now city officials in Aurora are asking for public input on what should be done with the movie theater.

Reporter Kurtis Lee is writing about this for The Denver Post. And, Kurtis, the movie theater is owned by the company Cinemark USA. Did they ask for public input on this or is Aurora doing this own their own?

KURTIS LEE: Cinemark did ask the city of Aurora to help them in gathering feedback from the community, on what should be the future of this theater. And basically this week, the city - it's been one month since the shooting. And this week they rolled out a survey to receive feedback from people in the community; to see what should the future of this theater be.

Should they tear it down and just close it forever? Should they reopen it? They're just really trying to gauge the temperature of how people feel.

BLOCK: I was looking at the survey online, Kurtis. It's just one question, right? And it's open to anybody. Anybody could answer this.

LEE: Anyone can take this survey and weigh in. If you have an internet connection anywhere around the world, you can weigh in.

BLOCK: So, if the idea was to get a sense of the community there in Aurora, it's really not doing that, necessarily.

LEE: It's really not doing that. And I have talked to spokespeople with the Aurora city government and they've just said, you know, they hope that a lot of Aurora residents weigh in.

BLOCK: Kurtis, you've also been looking into what's happened with other sites of mass shootings, including one very near you at Columbine High School in Colorado, where there was the massacre in 1999. What happened with the school structure itself? How was it redone?

LEE: Well, the school did some remodeling to it. In the library, a number of students were killed, so the library was totally torn down and redone and then other locations where students were killed were remodeled, basically, for students.

BLOCK: I know at Virginia Tech, where there was the mass shooting in 2007, the building where most of those killings happened has been reconfigured and part of it is now a peace center. There's also a memorial on campus nearby and at Columbine, too, right?

LEE: Absolutely. Yes. And there's a makeshift memorial right now across the street from the Aurora theater where the shooting took place last month, but there haven't been any decisions made on what's going to happen to this makeshift memorial. Will it become a permanent memorial right there? Because that land is owned by someone.

BLOCK: Virginia Tech and Columbine, of course, both campuses, but what about massacres in businesses? You've looked into that, too.

LEE: Yes.

BLOCK: What's happened with those structures?

LEE: Well, oddly enough, several miles away from the Aurora theater, there was a shooting in 1993 at a Chuck E. Cheese, where a gentleman walked in and he killed four people. At that location, the Chuck E. Cheese laid vacant for a number of years, but then, eventually, it was remodeled and reopened to house a new business and it's just kind of changed with the years since that shooting and it's never really established anything truly solid.

BLOCK: Kurtis, do you have a sense of what the popular belief is in Aurora right now, what most people think should happen with the movie theater? Should it be torn down? Should it be remodeled? Should it stay?

LEE: Right now, it's so early. I mean, and we are just a month removed from this past shooting. People who were in the theater the night of the shooting feel different from people who live four or five blocks away. I was out at the makeshift memorial near the theater on Tuesday and I spoke to a number of people and the overall consensus that I gathered from people is that they want to see this theater reopened and maybe make theater nine - that's where the shooting took place - into a shrine.

A number of people said that if the theater were to shut down, they would feel like the gunman had won and they didn't want to feel like that.

BLOCK: Kurtis Lee is a reporter with the Denver Post. Kurtis, thanks for talking with us.

LEE: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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