Hearne: Movie Theater Exit Doors Should Have Alarms

No two ways about it…

If the exit doors out of the now-infamous Cinemark movieplex in Aurora, Colorado had been equipped with audible alarms, there’s a good chance last week’s movie massacre wouldn’t have gone down as it did.

If at all.

And that’s a question movie plexes nationwide must now deliberate upon.

Frankly, it’s not like the door alarm systems are prohibitively expensive. What retail store, hotel or office doesn’t have a few of them?

Take the Detex ECL-230D-PH. It’s an alarmed exit control lock that “can be found on the back doors of more big box retail stores than any other competing brand,” Detex claims. “This heavyweight exit control hardware by Detex has deterred thieves from walking off with millions of dollars worth of merchandise and goods.  And when it comes to ensuring a quick exit in the event of an emergency, the Detex ECL-230D-PH won’t malfunction.”

The systems retail for $371 per door and can be purchased online for less than $200 each. Making the total outlay for a 14 screen movieplex about $2,800 plus installation.

And if people need to get the heck outin an emergency they can, but only while sounding an alarm.

KC Confidential movie guy Jack Poessiger says he has no idea why movie theaters have never implemented exit locks, if only to percent people from sneaking in.

“I know all the airlines have them at airports if you try to go through a door you’re not supposed to the alarm goes off,” Poessiger says. “But I’ve never seen that in a movie theater.”

In the wake of Friday’s Dark Knight shooting a reporter for Channel 5 in Cleveland walked into a darkened theater later that same day in Rocky River’s AMC Theater and tested the exit door to see if it would trigger an alarm.

“There were no signs indicating an alarm would sound, so she pushed open the door,” the report reads. “Nothing happened.  But that’s not all…as she walked away the door never closed completely. She had to slam it to get it to shut.”

The reporter then contacted AMC’s local manager who “would only tell her he was on his way to shut the door and she needed to call a media hotline at AMC’s corporate offices,” the report concludes.

There you have it, sounds like a no-brainer to me.



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15 Responses to Hearne: Movie Theater Exit Doors Should Have Alarms

  1. mike says:

    I was surprised they didn’t have them. Not that it seems important in the wake of this tragedy, but I wonder how often someone buys a ticket and then lets their buddies in the back door if their is no alarm on it. I would have thought there would be an alarm on the back door just to prevent that.

  2. balbonis moleskine says:

    I think it comes down to the “people are dicks” problem, plus a liability of only having one fire exit.

    If you installed the door at the front with an alarm then anyone dissatisfied with the movie could just walk out and trip the alarm, ruining everyone’s experience. You could only imagine the traction teenagers would have setting these babies off.

    Secondly, are we fully sure that the front exit is considered a “fire exit”? Perhaps they want to encourage people to use the nearest exit in case of fire, not just the one up front. That way, people will get out 3x faster than if they used the “fire exit” only.

  3. the dude says:

    Are we talking about emergency exit doors or regular exit doors? Which one did he enter through?

    HC: The doors to the individual theaters not the primary exit doors. Which is the one the shooter entered through. They’re really designed for emergency exits primarily and people exit normally out the theater, into the lobby, then out either the main or auxiliary theater doors.

  4. Dwain says:

    No alarmed doors. If one goes off it could disturb the movie I’m watching. No thank you, I like to see and hear the movie I paid for.

  5. Dwain says:

    I like the new look of the site. But there is no way to click back to the home page after you read a story or comment. Except by hitting the back button. If you comment, you have to hit back the back button twice.

  6. PB says:

    As the dude said, which type of exit are we talking? I was under the assumption that he just slipped out and propped open a normal side exit door. Those exits are in place so people can exit in an easy and orderly fashion and to free up space in the lobby area that is often crowded with new arrivals to the theatre. Not sure you would want alarms on those types of exit doors as they serve a logistical purpose. The ones at the front of the actual theatres that are used for more of an emergency purpose, yes, that would make sense.

  7. gigi says:

    I would much rather have my movie interrupted by an alarm going off then some crazed sociopath on a rampage……who was able to arm himself and get his weapon through the exit door…it makes perfect sence to have alarms!

  8. In my experience as an international Entertainment and Security expert, I have found emergency exit doors alarms in many theaters in this country. The incident did not have to occured if there had been an alarmed door and security personnel, all of which they did not have. Timing would have been on their side. Tragically the hype overcame, in my opinion, the need for security and box office receipts. Dr. Randall Davidson

  9. PB says:

    Where are all these mysterious theatres with alarmed exits? I have been to almost every theatre in this burg and they all have had hallway exits off the lobby that hundreds of theatre goers use and none of them have alarms nor should they. Again, they are in place for an easy, orderly flow out of the theatre which helps alleviate tie-ups in the lobby area. The logistics of alarmed exits is just dumb and defeats the whole purpose of how an EMERGENCY exit should be utilized. Why change how theatres have operated forever just because of one crazed gunman who could have just as easily burst into an overcrowded lobby area and started blasting away armed to the teeth as he was? This solution smacks of the overreaction to the shoe bomber. Conspiracy theories aside, I don’t think we should inconvenience theatre goers or the theatres operators just because of ONE lone Joker.

    • mike says:

      I’ve been to theaters with fire exits going directly outside. They do normally have fire alarms on them as they are intended to only be used in emergencies. There are laws on having multiple exits from buildings for fire safety. You also find back fire exits in many stores, restaurants etc. and they almost always have alarms on them. I am not sure what the exact laws are on fire codes but there probably is someone on here who would know.

  10. PB says:

    I get that there are fire/emergency exits in the theatres (usually directly out of the auditoriums themselves), but I was under the impression that the “Joker” exited and propped open one of the frequently used side exits. Those exits are set up that way for a reason and have never been an issue before (except for maybe some kid sneaking in). Why should the actions of one unlikely crazy incovenience millions of theatre goers that have never had a problem with the current system. People have to fly so they put up with airport security measures, but people don’t have to go to the theatre. Make it a hassle and that affects their bottomline. Front exits only and the typical theatre becomes a clusterfuck on a Friday night. Relax on all the solutions as nothing is going to stop an intelligent crazy like the Aurora shooter.

    • mike says:

      You are right about that. If someone is as intent on doing harm as this guy, he could have blown up the theater or something else. Remember what Tim McVey did in Oklahoma City with fertilizer! Look at all the murders that take place in prisons with improvised weapons! We should blame the murderer instead of the weapon used.

  11. Bruce Kappele says:

    Regretfully, if the shooter wanted to do it another way, he could have paid for his ticket and walked into the show, left and went to his car, got his fire arms and walked back into the movie, shooting anyone who got into his way and entered the actual auditorium and shot up the place anyway.

    If there were alarms on the exit doors when activated the audience would panic and run out of the show anyway. Demented people will find ways to circumvent any guards.

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