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Aurora theater reopens with private ceremony

January 17, 2013 12:00:00 AM PST
The Colorado movie theater where a gunman killed 12 people and injured 70 others reopened on Thursday with a private ceremony.

The city distributed 2,000 tickets for victims, their families, first responders and officials to attend the private reopening ceremony. Colorado's Governor John Hickenlooper and Aurora's Mayor Steve Hogan attended.

"We as a community have not been defeated," Mayor Hogan told victims, officials, and dozens of police officers and other first responders who filled half the theater's seats at the ceremony.

"We are a community of survivors," Hogan declared. "We will not let this tragedy define us."

The ceremony was followed by a screening of the latest "Hobbit" film.

Some victims said it was important to reclaim the theater, but others refused the invitation to attend. Fifteen relatives of victims recently issued a statement that called the Cinemark invitation "disgusting and insensitive."

"It was boilerplate Hollywood - 'Come to our movie screening,'" said Anita Busch, whose cousin, 23-year-old college student Micayla Medek, died at the theater.

Pierce O'Farrill, who was wounded three times in the shooting, said: "It's important for me to come here and sit in the same seat that I was sitting in. It's all part of the healing process, I guess."

During the ceremony, Governor Hickenlooper addressed the grief the victim's families were experiencing.

"We certainly recognize all the different paths that people take to mourn, the different paths that people take to recover from unimaginable, incomprehensible loss," Gov. Hickenlooper said. "Some wanted this theater to reopen. Some didn't. Certainly both answers are correct."

Cinemark reportedly spent $1 million on theater renovations. Hogan had said residents overwhelmingly support reclaiming what he calls "an important venue for Aurora."

Samuel Aquila, the Roman Catholic archbishop of Denver, concluded the ceremony with a prayer for the dead and the living.

Theater owner Cinemark plans to temporarily reopen the entire 16-screen complex in Aurora to the public on Friday, then permanently on Jan. 25.

James Holmes is charged with 166 felony counts, mostly murder and attempted murder, in the July 20 massacre at a midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises." Holmes has until March to enter a plea.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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