EXCLUSIVE: Top brass at the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) stressed that cinemas remained safe environments as they issued a statement expressing sympathy for the victims of a Florida shooting.

The NATO statement followed remarks by a Florida sheriff who said cinemas “have become dangerous places” after one man was killed and a woman rushed to hospital in the Tampa area.

The shooting took place at around 1.30pm local time inside a theatre at the Cobb Grove 16 multiplex in Wesley Chapel, Florida.

A suspect remains in custody following an altercation over texting during film previews ahead of a screening of Lone Survivor.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco was quoted in the Tampa Tribune saying, “It’s absolutely crazy that it would rise to this level of altercation over someone just texting in a movie theatre. But I can tell you right now when this goes out everybody is paranoid, they are scared because a movie theatre should be somewhere safe where people are out there to enjoy themselves.

“But unfortunately what America has seen over the last couple of years is movie theatres have become dangerous places.”

In its statement, NATO said, “We extend our sympathies to the victims of today’s incident. Despite the tragic altercation in a Florida movie theatre, which as reported is an isolated incident, movie theatres are a safe and enjoyable entertainment destination for millions of people. 

“We encourage our patrons to remember that they are sharing a common wish to be entertained and to treat their fellow moviegoers with courtesy and respect.”

  • The trial of James Holmes in connection with the killing of 12 people and the wounding of dozens more at the Century 16 multiplex in Aurora, Colorado, in July 2012 is scheduled to commence on February 3.