US shooting relatives blast theatre's invitation to re-opening

LOS ANGELES (AFP) - Relatives of victims massacred by a gunman in a Colorado movie theatre criticised on Wednesday an invitation to its re-opening as a "ridiculously offensive" publicity ploy.

Family members of nine of the 12 people who died in Aurora, outside Denver in July said the invitation's timing was particularly painful over the Christmas holiday, and called for others to boycott the "special evening of remembrance." "During the holiday we didn't think anyone or anything could make our grief worse," they wrote in a letter to movie theatre chain Cinemark.

"But you, Cinemark, have managed to do just that by sending us an invitation two days after Christmas inviting us to attend the re-opening of your theatre in Aurora where our loved ones were massacred.

"Thanks for making what is a very difficult holiday season that much more difficult. Timing is everything and yours is awful."

As well as those killed, 58 people were wounded at a midnight premiere of the Batman movie The Dark Knight Rises. Alleged gunman James Holmes, 24, reportedly wore body armor and threw smoke bombs before opening fire.

The massacre revived the perennial debate about US gun control laws, triggered again by the killing of 26 people including 20 young children at a Connecticut elementary school last month.

Wednesday's letter by Aurora victims' relatives said Cinemark - which is facing a number of lawsuits from relatives and survivors alleging lax security - had never reached out to the families to offer condolences.

"This disgusting offer that you'd 'like to invite you and a guest to a special evening of remembrance on Thursday, January 17 at 5 PM' followed by the showing of a movie and then telling us to be sure 'to reserve our tickets' is wholly offensive to the memory of our loved ones.

"Our family members will never be on this earth with us again and a movie ticket and some token words from people who didn't care enough to reach out to us, nor respond when we reached out to them to talk, is appalling."

They added: "We, the families, recognise your thinly veiled publicity ploy for what it is: a great opportunity for you to distance yourselves and divert public scrutiny from your culpability in this massacre.

"After reading our response to your ridiculously offensive invitation, you now know why we will not be attending your re-opening celebration and will be using every social media tool at our disposal to ask the other victims to ask their friends and family to honour us by boycotting the killing field of our children." There was no immediate response from the theatre chain.