“We Will Rise Above This”

I’ll never forget the first few days after 9/11…

Like everyone else in America, I was glued to the TV and the Internet, trying to soak up and absorb every last bit of information that I could about the horrific tragedy that had just unfolded.

I was upset, I was angry and I was depressed. And after a few days of non-stop news, I felt like I had enough. I needed a break from the doom and gloom that had permeated the media, and just turning off the TV and the computer wasn’t enough to tune out the madness.

I needed an escape. So I did what I always do when I need an escape. I went to the movies.

And as always, it was just what the doctor ordered. For almost two hours, I was able to forget about the atrocities of the outside world. The fact that I was watching a terrible movie (“Glitter”) didn’t matter, and to this day, I will always be grateful to Mariah Carey for providing that much-needed distraction.

Like most people, I have always loved movies. But more importantly, I have always loved going to the movies.

When I went to the movies, I felt safe, I was happy and I felt comfortable – sometimes more comfortable than I did even in my own home. It didn’t matter what theater I went to, because the feeling was always the same. As the smell of stale popcorn permeated the air, I knew I was just a few moments away from losing myself in another life, another love or another world.

And then, as the lights went down, I could literally feel the weight of the world disappear from my shoulders. I thought that feeling would go away when I got older, or maybe I would get jaded to the experience after I started spending a lot more time in movie theaters when I became a film critic.

But nope, I still get that same exact feeling. Every. Single. Time.

In a sense, movie theaters are my home. Or rather, they’re my home away from home – a home that I shared with a different group of people from one movie to the next. Like snowflakes on a cold winter’s day, no two moviegoing experiences were the same, and it was because of the audience that I was grateful to share the experience with.

And in the early hours of July 20, 2012, in Aurora, Colorado, my home – or rather, our home – was invaded by a lunatic who killed 12 people and injured 58 more.

The theater was filled with passionate movie fans who wanted to be among the first to see “The Dark Knight Rises,” the epic conclusion to the excellent trilogy of Batman films directed by Christopher Nolan. Had I not already seen it two weeks prior at a press screening, I would have gone to one of those midnight screenings somewhere in Hollywood. After all, there’s nothing like seeing a big event movie like this with the opening night crowd, whose energy and enthusiasm helped turn an already great cinematic experience into an even better one.

And now, that safe haven has been shattered, maybe for good. Here it was, the one place left in the world where people could go to escape from their personal problems and the problems of the outside world had become the scene of a devastating crime.

Of course, the priority here is about the victims, their loved ones and their families. Not since Columbine, 9/11 and Virginia Tech has my heart been so heavy with mourning and sadness, and I pray for everyone affected by this incomprehensible crime.

But I am also concerned about a pastime that I hold so dear. Will going to the movies ever be the same? Will the tragedy of Aurora, Colorado, have the same effect on going to the movies that the 9/11 terrorist attacks had on air travel? How can something like this be prevented from happening again? Will this finally lead to tougher restrictions on gun control? Will metal detectors be set up outside movie theaters? Will undercover U.S. Marshalls sit in the audience in an effort to ensure our safety?

Tough questions to be sure. And who knows what the answers are.

As with 9/11, I’ve been glued to my TV and the Internet, trying to soak up and absorb every last bit of information that I can about the aftermath of the theater massacre and, of course, why it happened in the first place.

And when I feel like I’ve had enough – when I feel like I need an escape from the madness – I’m going to do what I’ve always done when I need an escape. I’m going to go to the movies.

And the movie I’m going to see? You guessed it: “The Dark Knight Rises.”

We live in tough times, and in times like these, movies are more important than ever. We go to the movies to be inspired, to be enlightened, to be informed and – most of all – to be entertained. As hard as it may seem for the time being, that experience cannot be compromised.

So if you do go to the movies, do yourself a favor and see “The Dark Knight Rises.” It’s the crowning achievement of the Batman trilogy, and it’s the biggest, best, most exciting Batman of them all. Don’t be surprised when this epic masterpiece gets nominated for Best Picture, and when that happens, you’ll be able to say that you saw it the way it was meant to be seen: at the movies.

-Scott Mantz