Big Screen Safety

What’s your favorite thing about going to the movies? The buttery popcorn? The comfy seats? The thrill of watching the lights go down, knowing you are about to step into a new world?

For many people, a trip to the movies provides a much-needed escape from everyday life. Whether it’s a comedic romance or a science-fiction epic, movies give viewers a chance to become fully absorbed in a new world as the action unfolds all around them. But in recent years, the joy of going to a movie has been tainted by gun violence, aggressive altercations, and patron injuries. Are the movies still an escape from reality after all, or are they just another dangerous place?

Movie Theatre Violence

The most high profile movie theatre incidents have been mass shootings, starting with a shooting in 2012 in Aurora, Colorado that killed 12 people and injured 70 others. In 2015, two people were killed at a movie theatre in Lafayette, Louisiana. And in nearby Wesley Chapel, a 2014 argument led to one patron killing another.

While shootings like these are uncommon, they still raise fears about the vulnerability of movie theatre patrons. The shooting in Westley Chapel takes the fear even farther, showing that it can be an annoyed moviegoer, not a gunman with a premeditated mission, who initiates the violence.


In the darkness of the theatre, patrons are also vulnerable to injuries from slips, falls, and other mishaps. The natural darkness can pose a danger if a patron needs to leave during the film. Spilled drinks and other hazards on the floor also increase the chances of an accident, as do other movie-goers who sit with their feet in the aisles. If a patron slips, falls, or stumbles, they could suffer from:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Broken bones
  • Internal injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Head and brain trauma

When a theater-goer is injured, the movie theater’s duty of care needs to be considered when determining liability. Duty of care refers to the responsibility of a business property owner to look out for their patron’s safety. This means that they should make sure everything on their premises is safe. As their duty to their patrons, movie theatres should have:

  • Clean floors and unobstructed walkways
  • Well-lit walkways
  • Adequate security
  • Efficient emergency plan

Who is at Fault?

When injuries occur, it must be determined if a breach of duty caused the injuries. For example, if a patron falls while walking and texting in a dark theatre, their injuries were not a direct result of a breach of duty. On the other hand, if the theatre fails to inform movie-goers of the emergency exits, leading to chaos when an emergency occurs, they could be held liable for any injuries, because they had a responsibility to inform the movie-goers of an emergency plan. In the event of a shooting, the theatre might be liable if they had reason to suspect the shooting but failed to take action.

Even though movie theatres are fun places, it’s important to always stay aware of your surroundings. Take a minute to locate the emergency exists, familiarize yourself with any obstacles, and point out anything you are uncomfortable with, including any suspicious or aggressive behavior. Know your rights and have a plan in place. Then you’ll be fully ready to sit back, grab some popcorn, and enjoy the show.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.


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