Goodrich Capital 8 Theatres in Jefferson City, Missouri is defending what it calls a publicity stunt for the "Iron Man 3" opening last weekend, in which a man in full tactical gear carried a fake gun through the theaters.
Moviegoers and witnesses called Jefferson City Police after sighting the actor. "We received a series of 911 calls stating that a man dressed in all black and body armor and a rifle was walking into Capital 8 Theatres," said Captain Doug Shoemaker.
"We're just getting into the car when I spotted a man in full assault gear, carrying what appeared to be a modified M-4 and 9 mm on his side," John Morlock told KMIZ. Morlock is an Army veteran who suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder, and said the incident was jarring, though he didn't call police.
Officers responded as if it were an active shooter situation. Theater manager Bob Wilkins said the event was planned months in advance and only a few people were upset, but hundreds were entertained. The theater's Facebook page has since been flooded with comments.
"It's an unfortunate lack of wisdom [...] that hopefully will never occur again," said Shoemaker, who added that it was a good thing an off-duty officer wasn't there. If an armed moviegoer had engaged the actor things could have turned out differently.
Asked if he regrets the stunt in light of the mass shooting at a movie premiere in Aurora, Colorado, Wilkins said, "No, my job is to entertain people." Just a couple months ago, the Jefferson City SWAT team held an active shooter training at the same theater.