What seems safer than going to the movies?
It’s where mom dumped the kids on a Saturday morning or afternoon and left them the rest of the day.
It’s where we were introduced to Goobers, Raisinets, Ju-Ju Fruits and Milk Duds.
It’s where we first got popcorn with way too much butter and Cokes in buckets instead of cups.
It’s where Seinfield made out during “Schindler’s List.”
It’s where Boogie pulled the popcorn box trick in “Diner.”
It’s where famous film critic Pauline Kael lost it.
It’s where Rat met Stacy in “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
It’s where we send our kids to their first jobs for God sakes.
It’s where kids rule with only limited adult supervision.
Yes, movie theaters in America have been impeccably safe over the years. Early Friday morning that likely changed when a 24-year-old gunman walked into a metroplex in Aurora, Colo., set off an unknown gas and began firing his gun into the crowd for a midnight showing of the newest Batman film, “The Dark Knight Rises.” The toll as of this writing, 12 dead and more than 50 wounded. Police have the gunman in custody but have not yet released any motive for the insane action.
For me, it’s shocking that it occurred and equally stunning that nothing like it had happened at a movie theater before. After all, no other American institution has been similarly immune from incomprehensible acts of random mass violence — from diners to fast food establishments, shopping malls, universities and high schools.
Up to today, the most famous historic criminal footnote in movie theater history is perhaps the capture of Lee Harvey Oswald in a Dallas movie theater in 1963. And Oswald, who had just shot President Kennedy and a city police officer, went without much of a fight.
The irony here? Oswald went to the theater because he thought it would be a safe place to hide.
But outside of the occasional protest of a movie some might not like for political or social reasons or the predictable threat every so often when a movie featured criminal gangs, it’s been the best place to settle in and … dream. That is the function of movies. It’s why films are shown in darkened rooms, to create a trancelike state and keep the appearance of an altered reality.
The irony here? Many in the theater thought the gunman was part of the show as he entered wearing a gas mask and confronted them.
The collision of our dreams and reality — in this case, it was a nightmare.