EDITORIAL: #BoycottCinemark the right response to theater wrongly billing Aurora theater shooting victims $700K

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Simply being right doesn’t preclude you from being wrong.

Cinemark, owner of the Aurora Century 16 movie theater that was the site of the 2012 theater shooting, is tragically wrong about charging back legal fees to victims and their families after a failing lawsuit.

The giant theater chain asked a judge last week to force theater shooting victims and their families to pay the corporation $700,000 in legal fees. Last month, a court ruled against 28 of the theater shooting victims and their families who sued Cinemark, alleging they were at least partly responsible for massacre.

Victims said Cinemark security was lax, and had they at least installed a working alarm on an exit door inside the back of the theater, some or maybe all of the horrific bloodshed might have been prevented.

We agreed with the court that ruled against the victims. In a society fraught with risks where people are determined to inflict terror on the public, it is virtually impossible for businesses and governments to create venues and events immune from the plague of horrific mass shootings infecting the United States.

But the victims in this case had valid concerns and questions. Had an audible, monitored alarm been installed on that secluded exit door, shooter James Holmes may indeed have been foiled in his plan to murder and maim as many as possible. Besides 12 dead, 72 were injured, some catastrophically. In fact, court testimony showed that Holmes cased the theater and tested the door before he chose the theater. Had the theater installed better exit-door security or other measures, he might well have chosen another venue, or maybe even have been discouraged from following through with his murderous plan.

While we still agree that there was certainly more Cinemark could have done and hopefully does now to protect theater patrons, it would be wrong to hold the cinema or other companies liable for these attacks. There simply is too much beyond their control.

So Cinemark prevailed. Now, the world’s second-largest movie theater chain, with annual revenues above $2 billion, is demanding these victims pay them $700,000 to cover the cost of their defense in the lawsuit.

Colorado law allows for companies to recoup legal costs when they prevail in liability lawsuits. State lawmakers enacted the measure to prevent gold-diggers from filing frivolous cases in hopes of making ill-gotten cash in out-of-court settlements or pursuing a no-loss gamble at winning something they have no rights to.

These victims and their families aren’t gold-diggers. They’re tragic survivors of a world filled with guns, violence and mental illness unwittingly drawn into a calamity that arguably might have been mitigated or prevented.

Cinemark is no mom-and-pop business pushed to the edge of bankruptcy by a nefarious and illicit lawsuit. This multi-billion-dollar company enjoyed the support of the Aurora and Colorado community in keeping their building from being razed — despite the horrific attack that happened there — saving the company millions in reconstruction costs. This is a company that regularly faces liability lawsuits from people injured on slick theater floors, bad food, icy parking lots and patrons injured in dark cinemas. It’s a hugely profitable business that has expenses for liabilities built in, and is easily able to absorb the questionable costs of their lawsuit, and expense the legal bill as another corporate cost.

While Cinemark may be making an example of these theater massacre victims in hopes of thwarting lawsuits targeting their next disaster, they only draw scorn to themselves, as being vindictive, money-grubbing and heartless.

There’s a move afoot to boycott this and other Cinemark theaters for their ill-conceived decision, and we support that measure. This is a company that clearly sees things only as a current balance sheet. More than likely only a boycott will force them to see how wrong they are about being in the right.