Security has been increased at movie theaters across the United States following a shooting spree at a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Colorado that killed 12 people.
With some screenings of the latest Batman film already sold out this weekend, many theaters will be prioritizing security to make movie-goers feel safer as they come in droves to watch the highly-anticipated blockbuster.
AMC, the country's largest movie theater chain, issued a statement on its website saying it was working with local law enforcement agencies and individual theater security teams to provide "the safest environment possible for our guests."
"We are taking necessary precautions to ensure our guests who wish to enjoy a movie this weekend can do so with as much peace of mind as possible in these circumstances," the company said.
Masks that cover the face and fake weapons will not be allowed into AMC theaters. Many customers come dressed in costume for premieres of comic-book based movies such as "The Dark Knight Rises."
Shooter's apartment booby-trapped
The shooting occurred just after midnight on Friday. That's when a man, dressed in black and wearing body armor, entered the screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, and reportedly threw two gas canisters before opening fire on the crowd.
Police have the suspect, 24-year-old James Eagen Holmes, in custody. He was arrested in the parking lot behind the theater.
Officers found an AR-15 assault rifle, a Remington 12-gauge shotgun and a .40 caliber Glock handgun in the theater. Another handgun was found in Holmes' car. In addition to the 12 people killed, about 50 people have been reported injured.
A police search of Holmes' home revealed that it had been intricately booby-trapped with explosives.
"We are trying to determine how to disarm the flammable or explosive material," said the Aurora police chief Daniel Oates. "We could be here for hours or days. The pictures are fairly disturbing. It looks very sophisticated, how it's booby-trapped. It could be a very long wait," said the Aurora police chief Daniel Oates.
Holmes had been enrolled in the neuroscience program at the University of Colorado-Denver as a PhD candidate, but the university said he was in the process of withdrawing from the program.
Director expresses devastation
The shooting spree prompted Warner Brothers, the film's studio, to cancel the movie's red-carpet premiere in Paris on Friday evening.
Christopher Nolan, the director of the film, issued a statement on behalf of the cast and crew.
"I would not presume to know anything about the victims of the shooting but that they were there last night to watch a movie," he said. "The movie theater is my home, and the idea that someone would violate that innocent and hopeful place in such an unbearably savage way is devastating to me."
"Our thoughts are with [the victims] and their families."
US President Barack Obama returned to Washington ahead of schedule from a campaign stop in Florida following the shooting.
"Such violence, such evil, is senseless. But while we will never know fully what causes somebody to take the life of another, we do know what makes life worth living," he said during a speech in Florida before returning home.
"The people we lost in Aurora loved and they were loved," Obama added.
mz/mr (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)