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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » Loews Cineplex Riot (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Loews Cineplex Riot
Jarryd Beard
Expert Film Handler

Posts: 229
From: Hellertown, PA
Registered: Jul 2004

 - posted 01-08-2005 11:34 AM      Profile for Jarryd Beard   Email Jarryd Beard   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Speaking of ground level operations, anybody heard this?

Teens mob Waterfront Loews; 8 charged
(External Link to Pittsburgh Post-Gazette)
The Loews Waterfront Theatre in West Homestead (Pittsburgh Area), PA


Teens mob Waterfront Loews; 8 charged

More action in cineplex lobby Saturday than on its screens

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

By Ed Blazina, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

It seems like an innocent holiday option: spending Christmas at the movie theater.

But if West Homestead police have their way, Loews Cineplex at The
Waterfront shopping complex will be closed for the Easter and Christmas holidays next year after the theater had a "full-blown melee" Saturday night.

A spokesman for Loews said the company probably would prefer to take additional steps to provide security on holidays rather than close the complex.

West Homestead Police Chief Dave Ausburn said hundreds of unruly teens overran the theater complex early Christmas evening, disrupting patrons trying to watch movies and wreaking havoc in the massive lobby.

Extra police officers on duty as a result of previous holiday problems arrested eight juveniles for disorderly conduct, and one had a charge of assault added for a fight with another patron inside a theater. No one else was injured.

Because of the problems, which began about 6:30 p.m., the theater quit selling tickets about 9:30 p.m. and canceled eight shows, Ausburn said.

Customers who were turned away -- many of them teenagers who had been dropped off by adults and had no immediate ways to get home -- then began causing problems outside until police officers could gain control of the situation, he said.

"We thought we had things under control [by assigning extra officers], but then the theater was overrun," Ausburn said. "The kids just totally overran that theater."

Historically, he said, Christmas has been the most difficult day at the theater, followed by Easter. On a regular weekend, he has one officer paid by Loews to work at the theater to handle problems.

Last year, that was boosted to three officers on Christmas Day, Ausburn said, but they couldn't handle the crowds.

After meeting with Loews' corporate officials early this month, Ausburn said, the company and police decided to have 12 officers on duty from 4 p.m. to midnight, including two with police dogs. West Homestead opened the detail to officers from neighboring Homestead and Munhall so there would be enough officers available.

Officers were stationed at strategic points throughout the 22-screen complex, which opened in May 2000.

It wasn't enough.

"Early in the evening, we thought it was overkill [to have that many officers]," said Ausburn, who was on duty himself to oversee officers.

"But then they started coming about 6 to 6:30. We were outnumbered about 60 to 1. Prior to closing the doors, they simply overran the front doors. It was just a total melee in front of that theater."

In addition to dealing with patrons who arrived as much as an hour before their movie was to start, police had to go into individual auditoriums to settle unruly customers, Ausburn said. As soon as they settled one auditorium, they would be called to another.

"We actually had people cheering when we would remove people from the theater," he said. "People pay good money to go to the movies and they shouldn't have to put up with that."

Eventually, police closed the theater and moved the crowd across the street, where many had to wait outside for rides. Ausburn estimated there were 900 people escorted out of the theater lobby.

Lynn Mason, of Highland Park, said she was upset with the way police handled the situation.

A family friend dropped off her daughters, Tahsha, 14, and India, 13, to see the suspense movie "Darkness" about 7:45 p.m. When the movie they planned to see was sold out, she said, they decided to wait for a later show, but they were ushered out of the complex when police closed it down.

"They thought they were going to a movie, so they weren't prepared to be out in the cold," she said.

Mason said her daughters didn't see any fights or other problems except for the large crowd. Their ride eventually took them home without incident, she said.

John McCauley, senior vice president of marketing for Loews, said the company had shown its concern for safety by increasing the number of officers after previous problems.

The problems Saturday, he said, were caused by "a few patrons who chose to misbehave."

"It was a very unusual circumstance," he said. "Across the [country], that's not a situation we see. Unfortunately, it turned out not to be a very good movie experience because the actions of a few ruined it for the rest."

Ausburn said police are scheduled to meet with corporate security personnel for Loews on Jan. 5 to discuss the incident. He said he will "strongly encourage" the theater to remain closed in the future on Easter and Christmas.

Loews will do all it can to keep the theater complex open and safe for patrons, McCauley said.

"Usually, those are pretty good movie days," he said. "We feel very strongly about people who want to see the movie being able to see it when they want to and in safe circumstances. We're hopeful this unusual situation doesn't occur again."

At busy times such as holidays, McCauley encouraged patrons to buy tickets in advance by computer through the Fandango service, which would assure seats and show whether a time has been sold out without the customer going to the theater.

In other cities such as New York, he said, most tickets are sold online in advance, so customers know it would be difficult to buy them at the box office, which holds down the number of patrons waiting for the next show time.

Basically, a riot occurred at the Pittsburgh area's largest theatre, a 22 screen Loews. Apparently the one cop on duty wasn't enough to control the scenario that took place at this huge theatre. Because I go to the University of Pittsburgh, I've frequented this theatre quite often. It's so big with almost all features on multiple screens, I've never encountered a sold out show. Obviously, this wasn't the case on Christmas day.

I almost posted this under the Christmas day business thread, but I think it's a bit off topic. Perhaps more discussion on how other large theatres control their patrons could be discussed in this thread.

P.S. If ever in da 'Burgh, don't bother with this theatre; it's too much quantity and no quality. Try one of the Destinta Cinemas (Chartiers 24 tour available at Film-Tech photos, however Pittsburgh is misspelled [Big Grin] ) or the brand new SouthSide Works Cinema.

[ 01-08-2005, 04:17 PM: Message edited by: Brad Miller ]

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Allison Parsons
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From: East Peoria, IL
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 - posted 01-08-2005 12:29 PM      Profile for Allison Parsons   Author's Homepage   Email Allison Parsons   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
They weren't the only ones with a riot on christmas day. My 'sister' theater GKC Landmark in Peoria Il had 4 fights, and one guy was tackled by the police and tazered and another was peppered sprayed. Fat Albert and Darkness sold out at the 7pm set and so a near riot broke out. They've never encountered anything like it in all the years they were open.

To make matters even better, the police advised them to close down since everything was getting out of hand. So the manager Bill calls the District Manager and tells him whats going on, his employees are being threatened and the police advise him to shut down. Well, as smart as out DM is, he said we could NOT shut down and just to stay open and make sure the police officers stayed in the theater. [uhoh]

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Brent Neal Jones
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From: Ennis, T.X., USA
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 - posted 01-08-2005 01:12 PM      Profile for Brent Neal Jones   Email Brent Neal Jones   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
How is a handful of officers going to control a theatre riot without doing something stupid or causing their department to look bad if such a riot took place? They should've went home.

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Jim Ziegler
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 - posted 01-08-2005 03:32 PM      Profile for Jim Ziegler   Email Jim Ziegler   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The easiest way to prevent riots like this is to prevent teen loitering.

If they are waiting for a ride, paint a box on the sidewalk and make them wait in there - any that refuse are ejected from the property without refunds. Set a time limit as well - if they don't have a ride in say 20 minutes, refer them to your officers for loitering citations and then eject them from your property.

For kids showing up early for a film, deny them access to the lobby until the auditorium is seating. Make a teenagers presance in any auditorium for which they do not have a ticket somtehing for which they are kicked out with no refund. Additionally, have a zero tolerance for any disruption. If a kid is being disruptive, kick out his entire group as well.

The goal in all of this is to make your complex an unpleasant "hang out" for anyone who is not there to see a movie and leave.

I spent three and a half years at a midwestern 20 plex that developed very serious crowd control issues with a rough inner city crowd that was flocking to our suburban theatre after having managed to close down every theatre in that part if the city. In that time, we had riots on our porch, and in auditoriums. Employing tactics such as the ones above took us from being the wildest, and, frankly, most dangerous theatre in the city to the calmist and safest. While the tactics may seem draconian, they do work. Additionally, as you run the teenagers out, the families and adults will return. After making a determined effort to get 50% of our customers to not come back, we boosted our attendance 11%

Even so, 12 officers should have been able to control this

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Aaron Mehocic
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From: New Castle, PA, USA
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 - posted 01-08-2005 04:32 PM      Profile for Aaron Mehocic   Email Aaron Mehocic   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Well, I'm not to familiar with the Loews Waterfront Theatre in Pittsburgh, but I do recommend Destinta and SouthSide Works. The principle partner in the company I work for was very instrumental in getting the latter operation up and going.

West Homestead isn't necessarily a part of the city I want to visit when I'm in town. The closest I get to that place is Carson Street, and even then, not too very far from Station Square. If I recall, there were a lot of drug related shootings down in that area just prior to Christmas, 2004, and buses had to be brought in to shuttle kids to and from school because it was too dangerous to walk the streets.

I heard of a theatre in Ohio that had, among other things, two night sticks for ushers to use if things got crazy among the patrons at the local university. I'm sure this is probably BS since that makes for a damn good lawsuit if some untrained kid starts beating the shit out of somebody just because he didn't like the look given or voice tone used. Speaking of Ohio, in Niles on Christmas night, cops had to be brought in to control a riot among those seeing Fat Albert . Apparently, there was an act of "police brutality" because a black woman was told by the officers called that she was drunk . . . [Roll Eyes]

Fortunately, where I work, we haven't had altercations like this. We have two security guards that mostly alternate between Friday and Saturday night shifts. One is good, competant, and knows what he is doing. The other . . . well, he is the other.

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Jarryd Beard
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From: Hellertown, PA
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 - posted 01-08-2005 05:00 PM      Profile for Jarryd Beard   Email Jarryd Beard   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The Loews Theatre is in a huge retail center know as the Waterfront. This retail space sits exactly where the old steel mills once were. In fact, the smoke stacks still remain standing for some type of aesthetic purpose I suppose. Most of the people that frequent the Waterfront aren't those from the Homestead area. The Waterfront has an open mall with some very high-end shops. From what I've heard, it wasn't Homestead locals so much as kids from the suburbs that caused all the trouble.

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Robert E. Allen
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 - posted 01-08-2005 07:58 PM      Profile for Robert E. Allen   Email Robert E. Allen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I wonder if it had anything to do with the product on the screen? Perhaps Loews (or any other circuit) should pay closer attention to booking films that do not draw the kind of crowds that are inclined to cause trouble, especially at peek business periods. This "Let's book whatever is making the most money regardless of the type of message it sends or the type of crowd it draws" philosphy apparently employed by most chains has bothered me about our industry today.


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Mike Spaeth
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 - posted 01-08-2005 08:56 PM      Profile for Mike Spaeth   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Spaeth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Not a bad idea ... Bob ... but when filling 22 screens ... you pretty much have to play whatever is available ...

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Phil Hill
I love my cootie bug

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From: Hollywood, CA USA
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 - posted 01-08-2005 09:11 PM      Profile for Phil Hill   Email Phil Hill       Edit/Delete Post 
Mike, WTF is "Bob"?

If you're referring to Robert's above post, I could not agree less! That is just plain stupit!

It's NOT about what is playing, it's about controlling the low-life POS people that deserve the kicking out, clubbing, and yes, even the "Taser" treatment.

Many others here have documented what measures they have implemented to clean-up their theatres AND their methods have worked.

Stop blaming the industry for the problems due to the assholes that ruin it for all.... JFC Already!

End of story!

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Wayne Keyser
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From: Arlington, Virginia, USA
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 - posted 01-08-2005 11:25 PM      Profile for Wayne Keyser   Author's Homepage   Email Wayne Keyser       Edit/Delete Post 

Maybe it's the crowding. I remember going Saturday nights to a rundown theater in an utterly deserted section of DC (last mainstream show: KRAKATOA EAST OF JAVA, which probably explains its commercial failure) - only nighttime entrance through an empty underground garage - I'm not kidding! - to see kung fu movies (in Chinese, of course, subtitled in semi-English and two other dialects of Chinese, not a lot of room left for picture) - the occasional fight was part of the entertainment - apparently a "safe watering hole" for the Asian gangs, but the ghetto crowd had their arguments and the Asians had the usual "you looking at my girlfriend" altercation - almost kept me from figuring out whether I wanted the moon cakes or the squid jerky at the refreshment stand.

I'm really not making this up! But ... what WAS I thinking?

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Gerard S. Cohen
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 - posted 01-09-2005 01:07 AM      Profile for Gerard S. Cohen   Email Gerard S. Cohen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Also on Christmas Eve...

A 15-year-old has been apprehended and charged with murder in the Christmas Eve stabbing death of a 20-year-old man in front of the Midway Theatre (a 9-plex) in Forest Hills, New York.

Three others were also arrested and charged with gang assault. All were held without bail in Kew Gardens Criminal Court. According to the criminal complaint, the four attacked the victims, both 20. The murdered man was stabbed repeatedly in the abdomen by the 15-year-old, and the other in the back, seriously wounding him. The other three defendants, ages 16, 17 and 19 allegedly punched and kicked the victims repeatedly.

Charges include gang assault, hindering prosecution, criminal possession of a weapon and tampering with physical evidence.

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David Yauch
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 - posted 01-09-2005 06:25 AM      Profile for David Yauch   Email David Yauch   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
We have created a pretty good balance where teens are concerned. Strict no-skating/rollerblading/skateboarding rules are enforced on all the property, they aren't allowed to loiter in the lobby or courtyard, and they are forced to leave if they are disrupting other patrons. We still do have problems occasionaly, but not too many if the employees downstairs are doing their jobs and staying on top of things. I had a couple kids so irritated about being kicked out for talking that one decided to start yelling at me and he was gone about 10 seconds later. Other than that I've never had to tell them more than once to shut up or get out.

My favorite is the crowd applause that usually accompanies the kicking out of teenagers.

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Dean Kollet
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 - posted 01-09-2005 10:48 AM      Profile for Dean Kollet   Email Dean Kollet   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I'm from Pittsburgh orginally (actually Bethel the south hills of the burgh if anyone here knows) and the last time I went up there, I was shocked. The Waterfront is beautiful and a nice idea to turn Pittsburgh around, and they are doing so many things to make return it to the glory days (without the smoke and steel of course). One thing I've noticed is that there are a lot of asshole kids up thre now, it pisses me off. Not to mention the drug problem that has taken over the city...anyone seen Goodfellas [Big Grin]

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Thomas Procyk
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 - posted 01-09-2005 11:07 AM      Profile for Thomas Procyk   Email Thomas Procyk   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Could these "riots" at sold-out shows be attributed to the growing "on-demand" cultrure in our country? People are so used to getting what they want when they want, with TiVos, the Internet, Cellphones, and big overstocked warehouse supercenters that they simply don't understand the concept of, "Sorry. All of the OTHER PEOPLE got to the goods first."

It's more prevelant in suburban culture. Everyone is isolated in their cars for 75% of the time that they're simply unaware that there are other people living among them.

It sounds like a strange theory, but if anyone here has worked a box office station during a busy time when stuff sells out, you'd be surprised. "I'm sorry, that show is sold out." -- "What do you MEAN it's sold out?!? We got here 10 minutes early!!" OR, "So are you telling me there are NO seats left?" OR, "What am I supposed to do now? YOU RUINED my EVENING!"

Add a dash of holiday "cheer" and you've got yourself a riot. [Roll Eyes]


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Jarryd Beard
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 - posted 01-09-2005 11:31 AM      Profile for Jarryd Beard   Email Jarryd Beard   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think you're right on that "on demand" feeling out there. I worked a bit at home over the holiday. When our shows sold out, a few people got extremely upset. As I mentioned before, it's so rare for a sellout at this Loews Theatre (For instance, they had three or four screens of Fat Albert), that people must not have expected it. That's why parent just dropped their kids off and ran. What they failed to realize was the fact the Christmas can be extremely busy. At least at our theatre, parents usually come inside and check up on what's going on as far as seats available and when the movie's over. I think the article also mentions trouble that stemmed from the eight shows that were cancelled as a result of the first problem. These patrons were probably even more pissed because they had already paid for the show. People need to realize that things don't always go as planned. Shows do sell out and problems arise where refund vouchers must be handed out instead of cash.

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