Christopher Nolan, the director of this most recent Batman series and The Dark Night Rises, said, “The movie theatre 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.” That was it. All day long I’ve been feeling this uneasiness apart from the profound sadness I felt for another shooting of innocent people again. It was that it had happened in a movie theater. My heart sank.
I made my living for years as a TV director and actor and my work had taken me away from LA and Studio City. At the end of a day of shooting often I found myself alone. Don’t feel the least bit sorry for me. It was the most fabulous work you possibly get but I was alone at the end of a day’s shoot in a strange town. It was usually mid to late evening and I was looking for something to do that wouldn’t get me in trouble. The one thing I could always count on no matter where I found myself was that I could spend a few hours in a movie theater.
There wasn’t much else to do late in the evening except eat. At the movie theater I could eat and watch a movie and I love movies. More important I love movie theaters. Dark places that suddenly lit up with anticipated magic. It was a place where I could go and not worry about anything but whether or not the movie was any good. That was it. I could always count on losing my troubles and worries in a dark theatre and the beguiling cinema. Some of my happiest moments were in the dark of a movie theater. I remember being a film student in New Orleans and seeing Star Wars for the first time with Joy and a bunch of friends and just like a whole lot of other people around the world who saw it that first weekend it went into wide release we immediately bought another ticket waited another two hours and all of us saw it again. It was one of the happiest moments of my life. One time when I was in New York directing Another World, I went to a matinee of Dragonslayer and I'm ashamed to write this but it frightened me out of my mind. I know it wasn't supposed to do that but it did it to me. I can really lose myself in the fiction.
Movies can take me away in a safe way that can often be cathartic or bring me out of my funk. Not once while you're watching a movie do you worry about your safety in the midst of others. It’s a shared safe space. There is nothing that is quite as amazing as a hushed crowd anticipating a huge moment in a movie with hundred of others or a game in a huge stadium seating tens of thousands. Then it happens and there might be laughter or maybe a scream or long loud cheer. That shared affirmation is essential for us. Who can forget the moment when the Millennium Falcon goes to light speed in Star Wars for the first time? The reaction of the crowd was just motionless for a moment then there was always this Wow or WTF or Cool... something we all collectively felt at once.
If I was in Aurora that night and it was my good old days, I would've been there for the mid-night screening. I’ve been to a bunch. I would've had thought all the things that the moviegoers have been saying. That this guy seemed at first to be just part of the movie or something and then in an instant everything was shattered. What would have been a great memory becomes a terrifying recollection that will never go away it seems.
We can't let that happen. We have to make certain that these places where we have a shared safe experience never go away because we need it. We need to know that we can enjoy each other's company no matter how we feel about things outside that theatre. Experiencing a great game at a stadium or ball field, seeing a concert or watching a movie is such an meaningful part of being a person. Even though everyone around you might be a perfect stranger it’s good to know that we can all become one under the spell of a great artist or great game.
Remember after 9/11 how everything stopped? Major League Baseball postponed their games until the 16th and the NFL called off the weekend’s games and Monday night’s game. After that we resumed our lives but tentatively at first. I beleive Americans reclaimed these shared experiences when President George W. Bush walked onto the MOUND of Yankee Stadium and smoked a perfect strike to Posada to start the 2001 World Series. There was no greater moment for America in my lifetime and I was proud of our President and proud to be an American.
It is my wish that on my birthday, if I am physically able to do so, to see The Dark Knight Rises. If I can't do it that day we have an anniversary coming up so maybe then. Whenever it is I go back into a movie theater, I promise myself right here that while I am sitting there waiting for the movie to start I will lift up a prayer for those who never got the chance to see The Dark Night Rises the whole way through. I will ask God to give me the strength to reclaim these safe spaces that I have known with such immense joy both as a child and an adult and I will hold dear those who will never again know the shared feeling of safety.