Screens will flicker back to life tonight at an Aurora, Colo., movie theater for the first time since July 20, when a gunman opened fire during a midnight screening of “The Dark Knight Rises”, killing 12 people and injuring another 58.
Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and the Cinemark CEO Tim Warner are expected to speak at a “special evening of remembrance” for the victims. The theater is expected to open to the public temporarily, starting Friday and then permanently by Jan. 25.
The theater has undergone cosmetic changes to the interior and exterior, including new paint and a different marquee. Inside, individual theaters are now labeled with letters instead of numbers. Theater 9, where James Holmes allegedly carried out his attack, is now “Auditorium H,” according to the Denver Post. It has been renovated into what Cinemark calls an “XD” or “Extreme Digital” theater that will show movies on a large, IMAX-like screen.
Some family members and victims of the shooting are boycotting the reopening, saying they are outraged by the timing of Cinemark’s invitation to the event, which arrived a few days after Christmas. A group representing families and victims is also upset at their perceived treatment by Cinemark, which they say has refused to meet with them or offer condolences. Several lawsuits have been filed against Cinemark, claiming the theater lacked adequate security.
Holmes, 25, a former neuroscience student at the University of Colorado, is charged with 166 counts that include murder and attempted murder. He is expected to enter a plea March 12.
His attorneys have said in court that they believe Holmes, 25, is mentally ill. While a student, Holmes was under the care of psychiatrist Lynne Fenton. The first lawsuit against Fenton was filed Wednesday by the widow of victim Jonathan Blunk. The suit claims that Fenton, who testified that she went to police in June with concerns about Holmes, was negligent for not putting him on a 72-hour mental health hold.
At a preliminary hearing last week, a flood of new details emerged about how Holmes allegedly planned the attack.
Prosecutors say photos recovered from Holmes’ iPhone show he scouted the theater weeks in advance. FBI and ATF agents testified about Holmes’ elaborate booby-trapped apartment and the weapons and ammunition he allegedly stockpiled. The lead detective in the case testified about Holmes’ odd behavior after he was arrested.
That those and other details are now public has prompted the city of Aurora to ask the judge to lift his gag order that has prevented officials from speaking about the case.
The city filed a motion Wednesday arguing that the gag order should be lifted primarily because the city has been forced to decline requests from police and fire departments interested in learning how Aurora first responders handled the incident.
Speaking about the incident would no longer jeopardize the investigation, the motion argued, “because the evidence has already been revealed to millions of people worldwide.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.