A History of Violence at the Movie Theater: From 1979’s ‘The Warriors’ Gang Showdown to 2015’s Lafayette Tragedy

In light of the Louisiana movie theater shooting during a screening of “Trainwreck,” TheWrap looks back at past horrific incidents

Theater violence

Thursday’s tragic shooting in Lafayette, Louisiana, during a “Trainwreck” screening is far from the first instance of violence at a movie theater. For nearly as long as movie theaters have been in existence, they have occasionally been the setting for shootings, stabbings and riots.

In light of calls for stricter security at theaters and tighter gun regulations, TheWrap takes a look at the history of violent incidents in cinemas.

February 1979: Palm Springs, California, “The Warriors”
This gangster flick sparked real-life trouble between gangs in various parts of the country. The first incident occurred Feb. 12, 1979 at a drive-in movie theater in Palm Springs, California, when black youths known as the Blue Coats went up against white youths known as The Family, leaving one 19-year-old Family member dead. Similar incidents occurred in Oxnard, California, and Dorchester, Massachusetts, resulting in increased security guards at theaters nationwide.

April 1988: Los Angeles, California, “Colors”

Life imitated art during the opening night of Dennis Hopper’s “Colors.” On April 16, over a dozen men representing opposing gangs engaged in a full-blown brawl outside of a movie theater in the Huntington Park area of Los Angeles. Across town in Hollywood, eight other gang members engaged in a scuffle before a late night showing.

February 1990: Los Angeles, California, “Angel Town”
This kickboxing movie about Latino gang members sparked a rumble at a Westminster drive-in theater on Feb. 25. The manager at the theater decided to cancel the rest of the weekend showings after one man was hit by a gunshot to the chest.

December 1990: Long Island, New York, “The Godfather Part III”
On Christmas Day, four moviegoers were caught in the crossfire of a gang shooting that erupted in the middle of a “Godfather” showing. A 15-year-old boy died and three more people were wounded. Four men from Queens were charged for the incident.

March 1991: Brooklyn, New York, “New Jack City”

New Jack City
This film based on Harlem drug lord Nicki Barnes prompted a number of tragedies in several metropolitans in the United States. The first occurred on March 10 in Brooklyn, in which 19-year-old Gabriel Williams died after a fight in the ticket line. After a Westwood movie theater oversold movie tickets, 1,500 patrons rioted in the area. Other disturbances ignited in New Jersey, Las Vegas and Chicago.

July 1991: Chicago, Illinois, “Boyz n the Hood”
During its tumultuous opening weekend, tension flared around the country starting on July 12, resulting in one Chicago man being shot to death and more than 30 wounded. At least 25 violence incidents were reported, causing theaters to beef up security.

January 1992: Chicago, Illinois, “Juice”
Tydsa Cherry died while exiting a Chicago theater after a “Juice” showing on Jan. 17, while a Pennsylvania teenager was left paralyzed from the neck down. The film about struggling Harlem youth inspired other outbreaks in Boston, New York, Anchorage and Arkansas.

January 1994: San Diego, Los Angeles, “Schindler’s List”
James Kirby was sentenced to six years in prison for shooting a woman in the back during a Jan. 6 showing of “Schindler’s List.” The gunman said he wanted to “test God” and protect Jews, according to law enforcement officials at the time.

December 2004: Queens, New York, “Meet the Fockers”
On Christmas Eve, Davey Adames was stabbed and beaten to death for apparently looking at a group of teens the wrong way while at a movie theater’s concessions stand. The three teens confronted Adames and his friends outside after the movie.

November 2005: Homestead, Pennsylvania, “Get Rich or Die Tryin’”

Get Rich or Die Tryin'

A group brawl started in the bathroom after a showing of “Get Rich or Die Tryin’” on Nov. 9, which continued in the concessions area. Sheldon Flowers, one of the men involved in the argument, was shot at least three times and died from his wounds. The theater stopped all showings of the movie.

June 2006: Baltimore, Massachusetts, “X-Men: The Last Stand”
Merely 30 minutes into a June 15 showing of “X-Men: The Last Stand,” med student Mujtaba Jabbar pulled out a revolver and shot the man sitting in front of him. Paul Schrum was shot four times and died. Jabbar walked out to the lobby and told the manager to call the police. He was found guilty of the crime but not responsible due to mental illness.

February 2008: Fullerton, California, “The Signal”
Two men were stabbed during a Feb. 24 showing of “The Signal” at a Fullerton movie theater. Surprisingly, the horror movie was paused and resumed once police had wrapped up their investigation.

December 2008: Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”

James Joseph Cialella

During a Christmas Day screening of “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button,” James Joseph Cialella shot a fellow moviegoer with a handgun for talking too loudly during the movie. The 29-year-old was charged with attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons violations, a police report said.

January 2009: Valley Stream, New York, “My Bloody Valentine 3-D”
A security guard at a New York movie theater stabbed a 16-year-old boy after he refused to leave the theater after a screening of “My Bloody Valentine 3-D.” The guard, Ricardo Singh, began an argument with the teenager before pulling out a  folding knife and stabbing him in the stomach. Singh was charged with second-degree assault.

April 2009: Eugene, Oregon, “Watchmen”
Just past midnight, during a late-night screening of the comic book movie “Watchmen,” an unidentified 24-year-old man shot and killed himself in the back row of the theater. No one else was injured.

March 2010: Lancaster, California, “Shutter Island”
A dispute at a Cinemark theater during a Saturday night screening of the Martin Scorsese film “Shutter Island” led to a man being stabbed in the neck by another audience member. The victim complained about a woman sitting near him talking on her cell phone, causing her and the two men with her to leave the theater. The men returned with a meat thermometer and stabbed the victim in the neck.

July 2012: Aurora, Colorado, “The Dark Knight”


On July 22, 2012, James Holmes opened fire during a midnight screening of Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises.” A Colorado jury found Holmes guilty of killing 12 people and wounding 70 others. The trial is now in the second phase in which the jury will consider the punishment for Holmes, either life in prison or the death penalty.

July 2015: Lafayette, Louisiana, “Trainwreck”
John Russell Houser, a 58-year-old white male, entered a July 23 screening of the Judd Apatow comedy “Trainwreck” and opened fire with a handgun, injuring at least seven people and killing two, 21-year-old Mayci Breaux of Franklin, Louisiana and 33-year-old Lafayette resident Jillian Johnson. He took his own life shortly after.

Watch video reactions to the Lafayette movie theater shooting below.