Regal Entertainment Group, which has several theaters in Austin, has begun to check bags in response to shootings at theaters around the country, a procedure it acknowledged on its website was “not without flaws” and would inconvenience guests but provide better security.
The Associated Press reported Wednesday that it’s unclear when the policy began, but several TV stations nationwide have reported online that customers noticed the change in Texas, Virginia, Florida and Ohio beginning earlier this month.
In Austin, Regal has a big presence. It operates the Arbor in Northwest Austin, the Westgate and Metropolitan in South Austin, and also the Gateway and Lakeline.
Regal spokesman Richard Grover did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday from the Associated Press.
On its website, the company says “security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America” and says that bags and backpacks are subject to inspection before entering.
Other theater chains that were contacted by the Associated Press declined to comment on security measures.
Earlier this month, a man with a history of mental illness and armed with a pellet gun, hatchet and pepper spray attacked guests at a mostly empty movie theater in Antioch, Tenn., before being shot dead by police.
Also this summer, a man shot and killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself during a screening of “Trainwreck” at a theater in Lafayette, La.
Recently, Colorado theater shooter James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison by a jury for killing 12 and injuring 70 theatergoers three years ago at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”
The new policy, however, raises questions. Will women’s bags be searched, for instance? And when was the last time you heard of a woman being a shooter in a theater?
Will the searches pose problems for folks who sneak in snacks to theaters? Will there be a racial component to searches? Most of the recent shootings, of course, have involved white men.
The American-Statesman has asked a local Regal representative for a response, via email. We’ll update this post if we get more information.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.