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Commentary: I was at the movies when shots rang out

December 17, 2012|By Bradley Morrison

I wasn't planning on seeing a movie that day. My job was to shuttle my 13-year-old to and from a birthday party. The birthday girl was treating her friends and a few parents to see "The Hobbit." My 10-year-old, who is a tad young for an intense movie like "The Hobbit," wanted to come along for the ride.

Pulling into the jammed parking structure at Fashion Island in Newport Beach, we fortuitously spotted the birthday girl and her parents. They invited my 10-year-old to join them, and, after a quick call to my wife, I agreed.

"One thing, though," one of the parents asked. "Can you come to the ticket office to make sure she can get a seat?"

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"Certainly, let me park first," I replied.

I parked and joined them in the movie theater lobby at the Edwards Island Cinema, in the heart of Fashion Island. Three adults and eight children walked into the lobby where we were informed that the afternoon showing of "The Hobbit" was for those 21 and older. No children were allowed because they were serving alcohol. Seriously?

After many minutes of arguing and negotiating, theater management gave our party 14 complimentary tickets to the showing at their sister theater across the street at Big Newport. Now we had the pleasure to transport everyone to the other side of the mall and across the street. I volunteered to shuttle a couple kids, and in 10 minutes we were walking the kids into the lobby of another theater.

"Brad, we have two extra tickets now, why don't you join us?"

"Why not?"

So I walked into the darkened theater with my popcorn, 3-D glasses and 32-ounce soda.

Not surprisingly, about 90 minutes into the movie I needed to use the restroom. As I walked back through the lobby, it was a different scene than I expected. Patrons were at the window looking, gesturing and discussing something happening outside.

The theater has a sprawling lobby and valet circle, which sits right off Newport Center drive about 20 feet elevated to the surrounding street, with a perfect view of the mall parking lot right across Newport Center Drive.

"I heard shots ... he's over there ... do you see the smoke ... what's going on?"

I was not fearful exactly, and not really surprised, just curious. At the same time, within me there was a growing feeling of dread that something dangerous is happening outside, and my mind was racing about the kids (my kids) in the theater. Should I just grab them and leave through the rear exits? Should I wait here at the door to see what happens? I needed more information.

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