5:05am

Fri July 27, 2012
Arts & Culture

Cosplayers React To Aurora Theater Shootings

  • KUNC's Nathan Heffel interviews Illya Kowalchuk, Executive Director of Comic Book Classroom about how last week’s events could change the comic book culture.

As the country begins to come to grips with last week’s deadly shooting in an Aurora movie theater, questions are starting to emerge about possible security changes at your local cineplex.

People have taken to Twitter to show their growing concern that dressing up as a favorite superhero (or villain) and participating in cosplay at the movies could soon be banned.

[View the story "Tweets About Recent Changes to Movie Theater Costume Policies" on Storify]

AMC theaters has become the first national chain to ban costumes that “make other guests feel uncomfortable,” and will no longer permit “face-covering masks or fake weapons” inside any of their theaters.

Other theater companies have not, as of yet, followed suit. Cinemark, which owns the Aurora Century 16 Theater where the shootings took place, has not officially updated a policy on costumes. Cinemark CEO Timothy Warner says the company is currently in the process of discussing future policy changes.

"...Bruce Wayne is about standing up for things like this. He's the kind of guy that says, when everything is falling apart, that's when you put on that costume."

The country’s largest movie chain, Regal Theaters, which also owns United Artist Theaters and the Colorado Center IMAX in Denver, has said people attending their theaters “should expect stricter controls over character attire and accessories.” However, a spokesman would not elaborate on additional security measures being discussed.

Illya Kowalchuk is Executive Director of Comic Book Classroom, a non-profit after-school program for fifth through eighth grade students that teaches literacy and arts education through comic books. He’s also on the 2013 Denver Comic Con steering committee. He says the close knit group of people who live in the ‘geek culture’ are trying to mourn those lost in Friday's shooting, while coming to grips with a reality that may call into question what they love and celebrate.

“It’s been difficult moving through this, and we’ve been really struggling to be that conduit of information and support. To let people know that we can move through this, and we can move on. You know, Bruce Wayne is about standing up for things like this. He’s the kind of guy that says, when everything is falling apart, that’s when you put on that costume. That’s when you stand up and fight for what’s right.”

Kowalchuk says he appreciates the strain AMC and other movie theaters are under since the shooting, and how difficult it is for the theater chain to move forward and find a way to help everybody feel safe.

“AMC is a business, and they need people to come through the doors to stay in business. If that’s the step they feel they need to take at this particular point, I can appreciate that. I guess my thinking is, while AMC is responding to what happened, who knows what’s going to happen over time and what their policies will be like and how they’ll ensure the security of their patrons.”

Last week's tragedy isn’t just affecting cosplayers attending late night movie premieres; Kowalchuk says it could also affect how people dress up for future Comic Con festivals as well.

“What I see being really important is con organizers and festival organizers are going to need to be really clear about the expectation for all cosplayers ahead of time. So that way, we can let folks know, ‘this is an acceptable costume, and ‘this is an unacceptable costume.’ And there needs to be follow through at the actual convention or festival.”

Kowalchuk believes that midnight showings, and allowing costumed moviegoers to attend should continue. He adds Colorado's geek culture is strong and supports all of the victims.

Denver Comic Con is currently in talks with the office of Denver's mayor and comic book industry professionals to create a fundraiser for all of the victims of the shooting and their families.

He says an official announcement on the event could come in the next week.