An untimely and insensitive invitation only rubs salt in the wounds. Families of victims of the Colorado shooting were confounded when Cinemark — owner of the Century 16 movie theater in which their loved ones were killed on July 20 — invited them to the theater’s reopening reception. The invitation, which welcomed the families to “a special night of remembrance,” has been labeled “disgusting” and a “thinly veiled publicity ploy,” leading the family members to call for a boycott of the Jan. 17 event.
Relatives of nine of the 12 people killed in the shooting wrote a letter to the Plano, Texas-based movie company, expressing their anger and disgust with the offer, which came just two days after Christmas. “Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult,” the letter reads. “Timing is everything and yours is awful.” The entire letter can be read below.
The families said they were not consoled by the invitation, which told them that grief counselors will be present during the event, a remembrance ceremony followed by a film screening for which they had to reserve their own tickets. (The movie title was not announced.) They condemned the company for its “quest for profits” and “zero compassion” for the dead. Their open letter to the theater chain, which owns 299 cinemas across the U.S., labels the offer “too little, too late” for comfort.
“Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn’t care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling.” The letter claims the theater chain repeatedly refused to meet with family members without lawyers present and didn’t offer condolences to the families.
The invitation, sent by the Colorado Organization for Victim Assistance on behalf of Cinemark, puzzled the mother of the 24-year-old Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sports reporter. “It was a killing field. It was a place of carnage and they’ve not once told us what their plans are for the theater other than that they’re reopening it,” Sandy Phillips told the Associated Press. Philips said that she would like to see the theater demolished, despite knowing it was an unlikely wish.
The Denver Post reported a survey conducted by the city of Aurora in August showed that most of the residents supported the idea to reopen the theater. Cinemark has since then renovated Theater 9, the room where the 25-year-old James Eagan Holmes killed 12 people and injured 58 during the midnight showing of the latest of the Batman series “The Dark Knight Rises” on July 20. The renovation was backed by the community, Aurora officials said, according to The Denver Post, adding that Gov. John Hickenlooper plans to attend the reopening reception.
Cinemark told ABC News that it wouldn’t comment on the families’ letter. Families of those both injured and killed in the mass shooting have filed lawsuits against Cinemark, blaming the company for its lack of security that allowed the shooting to happen and lack of assistance during and after the shooting, according to The Denver Post.
The preliminary hearing for Holmes, the University of Colorado graduate school dropout, will begin Monday and is expected to last one week. The counts of charges Holmes is accused of amount to 166, including murder and attempted murder, USA Today reports. His defense team is expected to argue that Holmes is mentally ill.