Police in the Bay Area's largest cities said they were stepping up patrols and visibility near major movie theaters this weekend in the wake of a deadly shooting at a Colorado showing of "The Dark Knight Rises."
Officials in San Francisco, Oakland and San Jose said they didn't expect a similar incident to happen locally, but wanted to reassure moviegoers it would be safe to visit local theaters.
During a midnight showing of the latest Batman movie in Aurora, Colo., police say a man shot and killed 12 people, and wounded 59 more, drawing national attention and prompting local discussion of how to keep residents safe.
The Colorado shooting was on Louis Chang's mind when the Oakland lawyer came to the Regal Cinemas in Jack London Square on Friday afternoon to buy tickets for Dark Knight, six hours before a nighttime screening.
"To take it as far as he did, with the theatrics, the timing, goes far beyond Columbine," Chang said.
The tragedy also seemed "categorically different" from another cinema shooting that happened earlier this month at the Jack London theater, said Chang, who works nearby. Five people were shot in front of the theater on July 8 during the premiere weekend for "The Amazing Spiderman." A bullet hole still marks the wall near the box office.
"That was more like a violent act that probably had more to do with rivalries, bad blood between people who knew each other," Chang said.
An Oakland police cruiser
The news of the Colorado shooting didn't appear to affect attendance at the Jack London movie house -- the first show of the day was sold out.
San Francisco police will be increasing patrols Friday in districts where the city's larger theaters are premiering the movie, Officer Gordon Shyy said. In San Mateo, police met with movie theater managers to discuss safety procedures and will beef up patrols near downtown cinemas, officials said.
"It is a reaction to what's happened in Colorado," Shyy said. "Right now it seems like it's an isolated incident, but we definitely don't want to see anything like that happen here in our city."
San Jose police planned to have its patrol officers roll by the city's theaters Friday when not responding to a call for service, Sgt. Jason Dwyer said. If officers have the time, they are encouraged to patrol the theaters on foot.
Berkeley Police Chief Michael Meehan said he has not assigned specific personnel to specific theaters, but that "all of our street patrol are aware of what occurred and we have asked them that they be aware and vigilant."
Meehan said the random nature of the shooting in Colorado "is worrisome because it is hard to prevent and predict. That's why we ask people to be as vigilant as they can in theaters."
Bay Area movie fans who waited in line Friday morning to see the latest Batman movie expressed a mixture of shock and sympathy for the victims.
San Francisco resident Rob Veline was saddened by the Colorado tragedy but saw little connection between what happened and the superhero movie he was about to watch.
"It could have been at a movie, it could have been at a farmers market, it could have been at a mall," Veline said.
Marisol Zepeda and her two sons, ages 13 and 4, arrived at the AMC theaters at San Jose's Eastridge Mall to see the 9:15 a.m. showing of the "The Dark Knight Rises." She purchased three tickets Thursday night, but after watching television reports on the Colorado massacre, she admitted to being a little nervous about going to see the movie.
"I hesitated," Zepeda said, but her 4-year-old son was "already ready" to go. "He could hardly sleep last night" in anticipation.
Dwyer also noted that some theaters, including Oakridge and Santana Row, hire uniformed officers for patrol on weekend nights.
"Increased patrol checks will give the public a piece of mind," Dwyer said. "We understand their concern. We go to movies, too."
Zepeda was surprised there wasn't a visible security presence at the multiplex Friday morning, which saw a very slow stream of movie goers for the day's first two showings at 8:30 a.m. and 9:15 a.m.
In Union City, nearly 50 people lined up at the Century 25 theaters in Union Landing shopping center about an hour before the 9 a.m. show.
Dale Garvey, the theater's manager, said the early morning killings in Colorado were an unfortunate incident but the theater would not cancel any movie screenings Friday.
"We can just assume it was an isolated incident," she said.
The mood was somber among the crowd, which included about half a dozen small children, as they waited in line for the PG-13 film.
Manisha Maharaj, 18, of Hayward, said she arrived at the movie theater with her sister and three cousins around 7:15 a.m. She learned of the overnight massacre when she perused Facebook on her cell phone as she sat in the driver's seat of her car.
"I was, like, really?" Maharaj said. "It's not even safe to go the movies anymore?"
Staff writers Chris De Benedetti, Mark Gomez and Matt O'Brien contributed to this report.