Audience anxiety in the wake of the Aurora massacre came to a head on Sunday in West Homestead, where a crowd watching "The Dark Knight Rises" made a panicked dash for the emergency exits when a fight broke out in the theater.
"There were two people who got into an argument, and one person yelled something that induced people to get into a panic," said Colin Marks, 25, of Shadyside, who was in theater 12 at the AMC Loews Waterfront 22 when the audience began to run.
Mr. Marks, who was with two male friends, said he was relatively calm as he made his way to the emergency exit, pausing to hold up the crowd of people behind him to prevent others who had fallen in the aisle from being trampled.
"There were some people that were very scared though," he said.
An emergency dispatch supervisor said a 911 call came from the theater around 6:15 p.m.
A man, who asked not to be identified, said he doubted moviegoers would have reacted the same way if news of the Colorado shooting wasn't so fresh in their minds.
"It would've just been a fight at The Waterfront, which I'm sure has happened before."
Homestead police Chief Jeffrey DeSimone, whose officers were called in to provide crowd control, said it's possible that moviegoers were extra jumpy because of the Colorado attack, but the reality is that tragedies can strike anywhere.
"It happened before and it will probably happen again," he said. "Unfortunately, that's just the world we live in."
The West Homestead theater was the site of a fatal shooting in November 2005, when two men exchanged gunfire in the lobby.
Dionne Okafor, 26, of Highland Park, said she was hesitant to go see the Batman movie at all and chose an afternoon showing on Sunday that gave her a sense of safety.
She wasn't in the theatre that moviegoers fled, but she was alarmed when her film ended and she saw police officers with dogs in the lobby.
"After what happened, it makes it a little more frightening," she said. "It's always in the back of your mind."
Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or email@example.com.