Fire alarm empties movie theaters, prompts crowd control concern

Deputies with the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff's Station respond to call for crowd control at movie theater. photo by Jason Schaff, The Signal.
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The new year got off to a disappointing start Monday for about 500 movie patrons who chose to start 2018 off with a show, and were then forced from their movie seats by a fire alarm — and no fire.

About 3:30 p.m., halfway through many of the movies showing at the Edwards Valencia 12 & iMax Cinema at Valencia Town Center mall, a fire alarm went off, forcing the shut down of all movies and an immediate evacuation of the theater complex.

Supervisor Imy McBride of the Los Angeles County Fire Department said firefighters responding to the fire alarm discovered “dust from a contractor” had been mistaken for smoke.

Firefighters subsequently left the scene at 3:49 p.m., she said.

In the meantime, hundreds of moviegoers gathered in the courtyard in front of the theaters, many of them upset at the inconvenience.

Displaced movie patrons gather in front of movie theater. photo by Jason Schaff, The Signal.

A few moviegoers expressed themselves loudly, sparking a response by deputies of the Santa Clarita Valley Sheriff’s Station for crowd control.

At 4:10 p.m., deputies were dispatched to the theater.

At least two motorcycle deputies and others in at least a half-dozen sheriff’s cruisers, with blue and red lights flashing, descended on street between the parking structure and Salt Creek Grille, near the theater.

“It’s nothing,” one deputy told The Signal. “There’s just a lot of people.”

Among the disappointed movie patrons were Tiffany and Tom, who declined to give their last names, were halfway through “Pitch Perfect 3” when they were told to leave the theater.

“The fire alarm went off,” said Tom. “And, we were told to come to the front (of the theater) to get your refund money.”

The couple, leaving the theater, said they got their refund.

Leslie Hamm, who was also in the audience for “Pitch Perfect” with her daughter, told a theater staffer she got her refund for the movie but did not get a refund for the concession food she purchased.

“It’s not right. They’re not giving refunds for the concessions,” she told staffer Christy Metz who checked on the complaint for Hamm, then returned with a refund for the concession food, which she gave to Hamm.

Metz, who was not authorized to make a statement to the media, answered other questions from disappointed patrons.

One patron asked how she could get a refund for tickets purchased online.  Metz told her to obtain the refund online.

Crowd gathers in front of movie theater Monday after fire alarm pulled. photo by Jason Schaff, The Signal.

While scores of patrons waited for their refund in a long winding line in front of the box office, other moviegoers continued to show up for later shows.

Several people complained because initially, it did not appear there was enough staff to handle the throngs of customers, and sheriff’s deputies ultimately were called.

Things got tense after theatergoers got testy over a fire alarm which had emptied all of the theaters, according to Signal Executive Editor Jason Schaff, who was also at the theater.

“After no fire was found, management told the hundreds of audience members that they had to stand in a long line to get refunds,” he said, “and had to do it by the end of the day or they would lose their money.”

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