Time was when a warning sign at many businesses was “No shirt, no shoes, no service.” Add to that list “no bags,” at least those of a certain size and for patrons of a Wheelersburg movie theater.
Timothy Shively, general manager for the Wheelersburg Cinema on Ohio River Road, says the independent theater has been searching bags ever since a 2012 mass shooting in an Aurora, Colo., cineplex.
Nevertheless, the Wheelersburg theater is taking its security efforts a step further. It has been announcing on its Facebook page and with notices on the theater doors that, beginning Sunday, the Wheelersburg movie house is banning all purses and bags over a certain size.
Shively says any bags larger than 12x12x8 simply will not be allowed into the theater. Although the local cinema is not connected with the Cinemark chain of theaters, Shively says he and owner Bill Williams had decided to follow Cinemark’s rules and standards regarding packages brought into the theater. Shively did note Wheelersburg is deviating slightly from Cinemark’s rules, allowing slightly larger bags into the theater.
According to Shively, the Wheelersburg Cinema is big on patron and employee safety. The facility has numerous closed-circuit cameras in its lobby, many of which are monitored constantly on screens in his office. Furthermore, the theater has several cameras mounted in the parking lot to help ensure the safety of patrons and their vehicles, especially for movies that start or end after dark. Additionally, he says, employees regularly check the parking lot during the evening hours.
Shively says he has never heard any complaints about the theater’s policy on checking bags, except for comments made on social media. Furthermore, Shively says his staff has never found any items that might be considered odd during their searches. Both he and Williams add they have not heard any objections, again except on Facebook, to the coming new stricter policy.
Shively insists the reason for searching bags and the new ban on large bags is to help ensure the safety of customers. But he also admits part of the reason for searching bags is to prevent patrons from bringing in outside food or drink. Both he and Williams note theaters make most of their money off concession sales, not ticket sales, despite what the public may believe.
Shively emphasizes the theater will not be interfering with anyone who has a legitimate conceal-and-carry weapon permit.
“We’re not going to infringe on anyone’s Second Amendment rights,” he says, adding that persons with legitimate weapon permits presumably already have been vetted by local government and law enforcement.
Both Shively and Williams re-emphasize what they believe to be the Wheelersburg Cinema’s superior customer service, and Shively says keeping customers safe is part of that service
“Hopefully, people will continue to come out when they see our customer service,” he says.
In terms of geographical proximity, Portsmouth Cinemas are probably the Wheelersburg theater’s closest competition. An assistant manager at the Portsmouth theater, who asked not to be identified, said the theater has always checked bags when there’s time to do so. He admitted some bags can slip through uninspected during busy periods. The Portsmouth Cinemas, he added, never has allowed backpacks or most over-the-shoulder bags, at least not in the year he has been with the cinema. However, he added, there are no plans to ban bags.
Reach Tom Corrigan at 740-353-3101 ext. 1931