The new Carmike 12 movie theater at Decatur Mall is looking to improve security after unruly crowds disrupted screenings during its opening weekend.
The long-anticipated theater apparently didn’t even make it through opening night without incident.
Decatur police officers spoke with a 23-year-old man at Decatur Morgan Hospital Decatur General Campus’ emergency room Friday who claimed to have been injured in a fight at the theater the previous night.
The man’s right eye was swollen shut, his left eye was bruised, and he had small lacerations on the back of his head, police spokesman Lt. John Crouch said.
Capt. Nadis Carlisle and officer Wesley Swoopes were working off-duty as security at the mall Saturday night when disturbances caused them to halt two shows after 9 p.m.
“We asked the manager to stop the movie so we could talk to everybody and ask them to behave themselves or we would remove them and they wouldn’t get a refund,” Carlisle said.
Carlisle said two teens were removed from the theater, but “we gave out plenty of warnings.”
One moviegoer, Grace Anne Clardy, 13, of Hartselle, said her attempt to watch “Dark Skies” with friends was disrupted by another group of teens.
“When it started, they just wouldn’t be quiet, and then they would stand up and start hitting each other and cussing at each other — but not quietly, very loud,” Clardy said.
She said the lights went up about a third of the way through the movie and officers came in to restore order.
“Before the cops came in, I felt a little scared,” she said. “It was just me and eight of my friends and the movie theater was pretty much full. It was a little intimidating, but then the cops came, and it got better.”
Clardy said Carmike workers stayed in the theater for the rest of the movie and officers checked in repeatedly, but the trouble continued after the show.
“At the end of the movie, they threw cups and popcorn at the screen and all over the floor. There was a little bit of a fight,” she said.
Clardy said her impression of the new theater as “very nice” was clouded by the antics of other moviegoers.
“It was a really good improvement from our last theater,” she said. “It just wasn’t a very good experience because of what happened.
“I might go back, but I won’t be going that late, and I probably won’t be going without an adult again.”
Officers also interrupted a showing of “The Last Exorcism Part II,” Carlisle said.
Both movies are rated PG-13.
“We at the Police Department recognize the need to help the Decatur Mall prosper, and the cinema is going to go a long way toward doing that,” Carlisle said. “But one thing we’re going to have to come to grips with is the number of unsupervised teenagers.”
Carlisle said he anticipates increased police presence around the theater. “Officers were coming by all weekend and checking on things,” he said.
This week, Carmike put word out that the theater would like to hire two off-duty officers to work 8 to midnight Saturdays.
A call to the theater was not returned Wednesday.
The mall arranged to have additional security before opening in anticipation of large crowds, Decatur Mall General Manager Kathy Hammond said.
“With any new business opening, there’s going to be kinks to work out,” Hammond said. “We were prepared with the extra security on site. But overall, I think it was a great weekend for the movie theater and mall because we had so much more foot traffic through here.”
Huge crowds queued outside the theater entrance inside the mall, where shops were closed by the time of the late shows.
Carlisle said the waiting moviegoers — mostly teens — didn’t cause real problems, such as vandalism or fights, but did create a noise problem simply by talking.
“It was just so loud — a roar,” he said. “There’s nothing you can do about the acoustics, but … there were so many folks waiting to get into the movie theater, they couldn’t let them all in.”
Seth Burkett can be reached at 256-340-2446 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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