The Dark Knight Rises: 12 Dead in Denver, But SoBe Opening Peaceful

While 12 people were shot dead at The Dark Knight Rises opening in Denver -- and our sister paper Westword has the story -- things went smoothly in Miami.

At Regal South Beach Stadium 18 on Lincoln Road, it was just past midnight and Juanito was feeling the strain of the hour. He paced behind his ticket-taking booth, rubbing his eyes and his forehead. Every now and then, he rested both forearms on the black-paneled wood podium, leaned over, and took a deep breath. He felt fine when he showed up for his shift at 8:30 p.m., he says, but four hours later, a sickness came over him.

Ordinarily, Juanito wouldn't be here if illness hit him. Midnight on a Thursday isn't exactly a hot time for a movie. He likely could've gone to his manager and asked for the night off, or at least been able to grab a seat for what's left of his shift. But tonight is the movie event of the summer: the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises, the final chapter in Christopher Nolan's wildly successful Batman trilogy. Given the demand for tickets -- a manager tells me that the first scheduled midnight showing sold out three days prior -- there are multiple screenings set for the night, going until 12:45. They expect those to sell out or come close to it as well. So it's all hands on deck at Regal South Beach, no matter how close they are to vomiting.

As the ticket taker for the sold-out 12:01 showing, Juanito has, by his count, let in one Batman, one Catwoman, and at least 15 people wearing Batman t-shirts. It could've been two Batmans on the night, but the man who showed up in what appeared to be adult-sized Batman pajamas was looking for another theater doing a later screening. They started letting people in at 10 p.m. - -the costumed Batman was one of the first people to grab a seat, he says. Juanito was impressed with the Catwoman: "That outfit was skin-tight," he says with a nod of approval. But he doesn't particularly understand what would drive someone to wait in line until the small hours of the night for a movie that clocks in at close to three hours.

"That's not for me," he says, as the last patrons scurry into the theater. "I would just wait until the next day."

A young couple comes up, five minutes after the movie's start. He's short, wearing glasses, a black T-shirt, and jeans. She also has glasses and is wearing a red dress. Neither boasts any Batman paraphernalia. They seem a little drunk.

"Tell me this is where Batman is," the young man asks. In another time and place, this would be the kind of question that a lunatic would ask, or at least a particularly hopeful child. But at Regal South Beach, this is the only question that matters at this hour: Where is Batman when I need him most?

Juanito nods, then takes their tickets.

The guy and the girl grin. "Don't let anyone in after us," he says, then they run into the theater. It's a promise that Juanito can't and won't keep.

The pace is frenetic across Regal  South Beach. At least three managers sweep the floor--literally in some cases, with broom and dustpan in hand--acting as the vigilant protectors of the theater. Despite the hour, the line for the concessions stand is six-deep. Soda, popcorn and nachos fly out at a blistering pace. As people wait to order, a trio of animated hot dogs act out the bullet-time shootout sequence from The Matrix on the TVs above the counter. Hot dog Neo dies again and again, splattered with ketchup and mustard, before falling neatly into a Regal Cinemas basket. Later, some nachos act out a scene from The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, with a jalapeno in place of the One Ring. Soon, you figure, there will be an updated ad featuring a soda cup Bruce Wayne watching his parents get murdered by a larcenous Sno-Cap, then becoming the avenging Diet Coke Knight. But there's no chaos, just late-night order.

The manager I talk to doesn't seem particularly eager to discuss how the theater makes this midnight efficiency happen. "I can talk to you about Batman, though," he says, but he volunteers only that he liked the first two of Nolan's movies before returning to his rounds of the floor. Juanito tells me that he'll be on until 3 a.m.--the midnight showing will be over right by then. Until then, he has to stay at his post and make sure no one tries to sneak in. This is his first midnight screening, as he's only been at Regal South Beach some two months. One of his coworkers, Tiffany, has been on the job over a year. She's seen her fair share of midnight screenings, most recently The Amazing Spider-Man, and, for some reason, the kid-friendly animated offering Madagascar 3. The next week, she says, will be crazy with Batman. The theater has showings every 30 minutes from that day forward.

When Tiffany comes over, Juanito assumes that his midnight sojourn is going to come to an end. He told her earlier that his stomach was bouncing, and she let the manager know. But she returns with disheartening news: Juanito can't leave. In fact, she says, the manager wants him to do a sweep of the men's restroom on that level. He sighs and grabs a broom. Much like the Caped Crusader, there is no rest for the guardians of Regal South Beach. Though at least Batman never had to clean up spilled popcorn.

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