NEW YORK (Reuters) - Regal Entertainment Group has become the first large U.S. movie theater chain to introduce bag searches for moviegoers following a series of shootings at cinemas around the country.
Regal, the largest U.S. movie chain with some 570 theaters, updated its admittance procedures with a notice saying it had adopted the policy in order to make "customers and staff feel safe when visiting or working in our theaters."
"Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America... To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety," the notice on Regal's website said.
It was not clear when the new policy was adopted but moviegoers in some states reported being asked to open their bags before entering on Tuesday night.
The bag checks follow a shooting inside a privately owned Southern Theatres movie theater in Lafayette, Louisiana, in July that killed two people and wounded seven during a screening of comedy "Trainwreck."
That attack was followed a week later by an incident in Nashville, Tennessee, during which a man with a hatchet and a pellet gun unleashed pepper spray during a showing of "Mad Max: Fury Road" at a Carmike Cinemas Inc multiplex. He was later killed by police.
In 2012, gunman James Holmes opened fire at a Century Theatres movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, during a midnight screening of the Batman film, "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 people and wounding 70 others. Century is owned by Cinemark Holdings Inc.
Knoxville, Tennessee-based Regal Entertainment did not respond to requests for comment on Wednesday. Rival chains AMC Entertainment Holdings Inc, Cinemark Holdings and Carmike Cinemas could not immediately be reached for comment on whether they also planned to adopt bag searches.
The new policy has not gone down well with some moviegoers. Writing on Regal's Facebook page one person said he suspected the bag checks were aimed more at stopping people from taking in their own snacks.
Another said Regal would do better to install metal detectors, or introduce pat-downs for all its patrons, while another poster said the policy denied people the right to protect themselves by carrying guns.
(Reporting by Jill Serjeant; Editing by Eric Walsh)