Colorado theater invites victims' families to reopening event
8:22 AM, Jan 3, 2013
12:06 PM, Jan 3, 2013
AURORA, Colo. - A group of people who lost family members in the Aurora movie theater shooting said they rejected an invitation from Cinemark USA to the reopening of the Century 16 Theater.
The Cinemark movie theater where James Holmes allegedly killed 12 people and injured 58 others will reopen mid-January and will host a series of special events beforehand for the victims.
On Jan. 17, the company is planning an invitation-only evening.
The group calling itself 'The Families of the Aurora Cinemark Theatre Massacre' said Cinemark USA sent the invitation two days after Christmas.
"During the holiday we didn't think anyone or anything could make our grief worse," the group wrote in a letter. "But you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred."
Tom Teves, who lost his son Alex in the shooting, told ABC News he felt the timing of the invitation was bad.
"It's been a horrible holiday season, and this letter came on my birthday, Dec. 27, which made it even worse," he said.
Mary Ellen Hansen, great-aunt of 6-year-old victim Veronica Moser-Sullivan, told ABC News the invitation was upsetting to her. Hansen's niece, Ashley Moser — Veronica's mother — was paralyzed in the shooting and suffered a miscarriage.
"I was appalled at their lack of sensitivity. It's very upsetting," she said.
"For some, the reopening of the theater might be painful, and for others, healing. That is why it is important for the victims and their families to have a choice whether or not they want to attend the reopening," Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan said in a written statement.
According to a letter sent by Cinemark to Hogan last month, the Aurora Century 16 Theatre will allow victims and families of victims to visit before it reopens to the general public. The company said they would work with the Colorado Organization for Victims Assistance to make arrangements for Jan. 15 and 16.
The letter said employees will also be able to arrange visits on those days.
The company announced in September that they planned to reconfigure the theater where the July 20 massacre happened.
Before the company made that announcement, the city of Aurora collected comments about ideas for the future of the theater. City spokeswoman Lori MacKenzie told Scripps affiliate KMGH that those comments were sent to Cinemark for review.
Jessica Watts, whose cousin Jonathan Blunk was killed in the shooting, said she Cinemark's timing is awful.
"Not only did we lose our loved ones in July, but we've got the preliminary hearing coming up next week," said Watts. "We're just trying to live each and every day through the moments we don't have our loved ones."