Searched at the movies?

Those attending movies recently at the Tara Cinemas 4 on Cheshire Bridge might have thought the theater employee with the flashlight was checking handbags for covert snacks.

Not so. The employee was looking for handguns.

When Lisa King, a Stone Mountain visual artist and graphic designer, had her handbag searched at the Tara last Friday, she was fully aware of the context of the safety measure. There have been two unrelated attacks at movie theaters this summer, one in Lafayette, La. and one near Nashville, Tenn.

This summer also witnessed the trial of James Holmes, the Aurora, Colo., theater shooter, whose 2012 rampage left 12 dead and 70 wounded. On Aug. 7 Holmes was sentenced to life without parole.

In response to the incidents, Regal, the largest movie chain in the country, began instituting bag searches. The policy was explained on the Regal website in these words:

“Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

What annoyed King, 43, wasn’t the search, but the way it was implemented.

While King was watching, the female staff member at the theater searched only the handbags of female movie-goers, not the pockets of male movie-goers, not even those in baggy cargo shorts.

“It was kind of an emotional reaction for me,” said King. “I saw these women’s faces going from happy, date-night faces to ‘why am I being searched?’ faces.”

King was attending a screening of “Best of Enemies,” the documentary on the Gore Vidal/William F. Buckley television debates. She filled out a comment form objecting to the searches.

“It was skewed toward women because women carry purses,” she points out, “but weren’t most of these crimes perpetrated by men?”

A call to Regal Entertainment Group’s corporate offices wasn’t immediately returned.

•What do you think of movie theaters searching bags? Has your bag been searched at the movies? Leave a comment below and share your opinion or story.

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