Ira Miller said the midnight showing of the"The Dark Knight Rises"in his Rotunda Cinemas was an exciting event, with larger-than-expected crowds, someone hired to dress up as Batman and WMAR-TV filming the festive scene in the theater lobby.
However, he was wrestling with his emotions Friday after hearing about the tragedy in a theater in a Denver suburb, where a 24-year-old gunman killed at least 12 people and wounded more than 50 at the movie's premiere.
Although calling it "business as usual," Miller acknowledged that the shootings have cast a pall over the opening of the movie.
"We should be celebrating, but it's sad," he said. "It takes the sheen off.
"People are excited to see this movie," said Miller, who recently opened a fourth screening room at the Rotunda mall, with 3-D technology.
"You can't let fear take your freedom away from you. This happened in Colorado. We're Baltimore. People are going to live their lives."
Ticket sales have been higher than expected, Miller said Friday afternoon. "We're doing really good business, what we thought we were going to do and more."Baltimore City police spokesman Det. Donny Moses said police have added foot patrols outside theaters that are showing the film, including the Rotunda Cinemas, not so much because they think there will be copycat shootings here, but because they want to reassure the public that police are on guard.
Moses called the extra foot patrols "a precautionary measure, just to give people a sense of security. We're going to beef it up at all the theaters."
"It's when you're not watching that the damage gets done," he said.
And he said he hopes that moviegoers, in the wake of the Colorado theater shootings and incidents like Colombine, will understand the need for more police presence.
"Everybody's heard about Colorado," Moses said.
But Miller said, "We're not concerned" that it could happen here, and that he hasn't asked for police presence. He said his theater is already one of the most secure in the region, with a security guard posted in the lobby 24 hours a day and security cameras inside and outside the theater.
And he said he doubts that an incident like the one in Colorado, in which the gunman reportedly entered through a back door, could have been stopped at any theater.
"It's impossible to stop something like that," he said.
He said the incident has added an element he never expected to the opening of the movie — "an unnecessary sadness. I really, really feel bad for what happened in Colorado."
But he added, "The show must go on."