Candles burn at a makeshift memorial behind the movie theater where 12 were killed in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, 2012. (Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
By MICHAEL CLANCY The Arizona Republic
PHOENIX -- Count Tom Teves among relatives of the victims of the Aurora, Colo., massacre who have rejected an invitation to the reopening of the movie theater where the mass shooting took place.
Teves of Ahwatukee Foothills, Ariz., says the invitation to the Cinemark Century Aurora 16 theater was one of the "most insensitive" things that has happened in the wake of the killing of his son and 11 others.
In a letter he wrote, signed by representatives of nine of the 12 victims, Teves accused the theater of trying to use them in a public-relations ploy.
Cinemark, which is based in suburban Dallas, did not respond to a request for comment Thursday.
Teves, father of victim Alex Teves, 24, said the invitations came at a terrible time, two days after the first Christmas without family members.
"It was pretty callous," said Teves, who has taken leadership of the group representing the victims who were killed. "It is just a ploy to get them removed from any culpability."
The theater, where on July 20 a gunman killed 12 people and injured 58 others at the theater's midnight debut of the Batman movie "The Dark Knight Rises," has been closed since then. It is scheduled to reopen on Jan. 17.
Meanwhile, a preliminary hearing will begin Monday for defendant James Holmes.
The hearing, at which prosecutors will for the first time outline the evidence in detail, is expected to fill a week's worth of all-day courtroom sessions.
Holmes is charged with 166 counts of murder, attempted murder and other offenses.
"I'll be there," Teves said. "Although I don't really get why they are doing it. It's clear he is guilty.
"He deserves due process, but my son didn't get due process."
A letter from Cinemark executives invited families of the deceased to come to the theater Jan. 15 and 16 for a remembrance and a movie.
Teves said only two people per family were invited. But that, he said, was not the worst of it.
"They have not reached out to us once," he said of theater officials, "not even to say they were sorry."
He said families were given the chance to visit the theater prior to renovation but were only given a few days to do it.
Teves said he went, only to find that the theater already had been stripped of all seats, carpets and anything else.
"They had already sanitized the place," he said.
In addition, Teves said, he asked to talk face to face with Cinemark CEO Tim Warner but was refused.
"I have two words for them, and they are not 'happy birthday,'" said Teves, who marked his own birthday the day the invitation arrived, Dec. 27.
Teves said he wrote most of the letter to Cinemark and had another person tone it down.
"I was angry," Teves said.