John Russell Houser, a 59-year-old drifter, opened fire at Lafayette’s Grand Theatre on Thursday night, killing two people and injuring nine before turning the gun on himself and ending his own life, according to authorities. The incident renewed the debate on security that began three years ago when a gunman opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 and wounding 70. Beefing up security at the nation’s 5,000 theaters would be expensive. Walk-through metal detectors, for example, can cost about $5,000. In addition to the price of such devices, security systems require training personnel and paying their wages.
In Lafayette, La., police work at the multiplex where a gunman killed two and wounded nine others. (Stacy Revere / Getty Images)
While visiting a movie theater in the inner part of Houston, I noticed many off-duty Houston Police Department officers working throughout. The area and neighborhood around was seedy, but there was a feeling of safety throughout. However, the shootings in Louisiana and the one prior in Colorado did not necessarily occur in bad neighborhoods. Nonetheless, this usage of security measures might be a cost-effective deterrence to potential perpetrators.
Maintaining a strong security installation at a multiplex could cost between $250,000 and $1 million annually, according to security consultant Michael Dorn. Such a system would include metal detectors, X-ray machines, workers to operate those devices and additional armed security. The problem is that many movie theaters have already been struggling for over a decade due to more Americans opting to watch movies online / at home since the advent of home theater systems and big-screen TVs. Possibly, the high-end theaters that seem to operate also as a restaurant and appear to be thriving in today’s market will see the benefit in these additional security measures, but I dearly hope they are utilized effectively. Improper use of security equipment due to poorly trained staff and/or management oversight is simply a waste of funds.