After months of remodling, the Aurora movie theater where an armor-clad gunman opened fire on the audience of a midnight screening of "The Dark Knight Rises" killing 12 and wounding 58 others will reopen this Thursday after remaining closed since the massacre.
On Tuesday and Wednesday victims and their families will be allowed to tour the redesigned complex before the full opening on Thursday, 7News reports.
The Denver Post reports that the city of Aurora expects to distribute nearly 2,000 tickets to victims, first responders volunteers and employees of local hospitals for Thursday's reopening event.
Being called "a special evening of remembrance," Thursday's reopening will be attended by many state and local officials including Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper. Following some remarks a movie will then be screened.
Cinemark's reopening of the theater and invitation to victims' families drew sharp criticism from many Aurora shooting victims' families who are planning to boycott the event.
In early January, 15 members of victims' families signed a letter to Cinemark saying they were especially angry that the invitations to the theater's reopening night were received so soon after the holidays.
During the holiday we didn't think anyone or anything could make our grief worse but you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theater in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred.Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything and yours is awful...
You (Cinemark) refused our repeated invitations to speak parent to parent with no lawyers involved. Instead, we get invited to attend a "special evening of remembrance" at the very theater where our loved ones lay dead on the floor for over 15 hours. We would give anything to wipe the carnage of that night out of our minds' eye. Thank you for reminding us how your quest for profits has blinded your leadership and made you so callous as to be oblivious to our mental anguish.
The letter, which called the theater chain's offer "disgusting" also says that that Cinemark never reached out to family members to offer their condolences and that "telling us to be sure 'to reserve our tickets' is wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones" (Click over to The Denver Post to read the full letter).
Theater No. 9, where 12 people were killed and 58 others were wounded on July 20, is reportedly going to be turned into one of Cinemark's "extreme digital cinemas" with a screen that stretches from ceiling to floor. That theater is also set to have 61 less seats than it had on the night of the shooting.
Fox31 reports that the Century 16 theater now has a mural on the outside, with the number 16 removed.
Last August, Aurora Mayor Hogan said there had been overwhelming support to reopen the theater after a community survey was conducted by the city.
Hogan called the theater's reopening "another step in the community's healing," but Lonnie Phillips, the stepfather of Jessica Ghawi, who died in the theater shooting, told the Denver Post he felt it was just the opposite.
"It's like people going back to a slaughterhouse, as far as I am concerned."
Some victims and their families are expected to attend the reopening, one of which being Tom Sullivan -- the father of Alex Sullivan who was among the 12 people killed during the July 20 rampage.
"I will never tell anyone what is the right way or wrong way to grieve the loss of a loved one," Sullivan wrote in a column for The Denver Post expressing support for anyone else who does attend.
"The seat next to me will be saved for Alex, but I'll have an extra hand if you need something to hold on to," Sullivan wrote.