DENVER The Aurora, Colorado, movie theater where 12 people were killed in a shooting rampage at a Batman film last July was set to reopen on Thursday evening with a private "night of remembrance" for survivors and others connected to the tragedy.
The owners of the theater, Cinemark USA, offered victims or their relatives free passes to a movie later on Thursday after the event and invited them to view the revamped theater where the massacre occurred.
But in a letter to Cinemark, families of nine murder victims took umbrage at the offer to tour "the very theater where our loved ones lay dead on the floor for over 15 hours."
"We would give anything to wipe the carnage of that night out of our minds' eye," the letter said. "Thank you for reminding us how your quest for profits has blinded your leadership and made you so callous as to be oblivious to our mental anguish."
A spokeswoman for Cinemark declined to comment.
Some victims' relatives have said they will attend the event, among them Tom Sullivan, whose son Alex was killed in the massacre.
"If you truly knew my son Alex, you would know that he would want me to be there, if only to show that we will not allow anyone to take the joy we shared at theaters ... away from us," Sullivan wrote in an opinion piece published by the Denver Post.
After Thursday night's event, the theater will offer free movie passes to the public from Friday through Sunday. The theater will then close and reopen for good on January 25
The 16-theater multiplex has been closed since July 20, when a gunman opened fire on moviegoers during a screening of "The Dark Knight Rises," killing 12 and wounding dozens of others. Former graduate student James Holmes is charged with multiple counts of first-degree murder and attempted murder.
Aurora Mayor Steve Hogan, Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Cinemark President Tim Warner are slated to speak at Thursday's event.
Hogan issued a video statement about the reopening, calling it "part of a healing process" for the city of 325,000. He said three-quarters of Aurora citizens who responded to an online survey conducted by the city requesting input on the future of the site said they wanted the theater to reopen.
Cinemark (CNK.N) is the third-largest movie exhibitor in the United States, according to a company profile.
The Texas-based theater chain reported a 1 percent year-over-year dip in revenue to $636.6 million in the third quarter of 2012, the time frame when the shooting occurred.
Cinemark has refrained from commenting publicly about the massacre. Some victims have sued the chain over the rampage, charging that the theater should have had more security because it was aware of previous crimes in or near the multiplex.
In a court filing seeking dismissal of the lawsuits, Cinemark denied it was aware of other crimes at the theater, but even if true, "such an event would be insufficient to make a madman's mass murder foreseeable." (Editing by Dan Whitcomb and Peter Cooney)