AUGUSTA — Residents heading into the Regal Cinema on Thursday afternoon on Marketplace Drive were neither surprised nor particularly troubled to hear that the movie theater chain has started checking its patrons’ bags in response to recent shootings in theaters around the country.

“It’s fine with me,” said Jackie Nadeau, of Augusta. “They should have done that a long time ago. I’m never against too much security.”

Regal, which, with roughly 570 theaters, is the largest theater chain in the country, recently announced that it is searching the bags of people entering its theaters nationwide. It’s unclear when the policy went into effect, but the timing appears to coincide with an attack in a Nashville movie theater earlier this month. Regal Entertainment Group is based in Knoxville, Tennessee. The company said in a statement on its website that it was making the change to make its customers and employees feel safer.

“To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission,” officials wrote in the statement. “We acknowledge that this procedure can cause some inconvenience and that it is not without flaws, but hope these are minor in comparison to increased safety.”

Dave Wallace, who manages the Marketplace Drive theater, said he wasn’t authorized to speak to the news media, but he confirmed that his facility was complying with the new company directive. Still, several women leaving the theater Thursday afternoon said their purses hadn’t been searched. None of the men going in and out of the theater during the same time frame carried bags.

Earlier this month, a man with a history of mental illness and armed with a pellet gun, a hatchet and pepper spray attacked guests at a mostly empty movie theater in the Nashville suburb of Antioch, Tennessee, as they watched “Mad Max: Fury Road.” Vincente David Montano, 29, was shot to death by a SWAT unit, but not before one man was cut on the shoulder, evidently by the ax Montano carried. The man was not hurt seriously. His wife and their daughter were treated for exposure to pepper spray.

Two weeks before that, a man shot and killed two people and wounded nine others before fatally shooting himself during a screening of the movie “Trainwreck” at a theater in Lafayette, Louisiana.

The latest attacks came during the same month when Colorado theater shooter James Holmes was sentenced to life in prison by a jury for killing 12 and injuring 70 theatergoers three years ago at a midnight premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises.”

Regal is not the only chain to beef up security in response to the attacks. National Amusements Inc.’s Showcase chain, which runs about 30 theaters in the Northeastern U.S., says on its website that it has banned backpacks and packages and reserves the right to search purses and bags. It says the policy, which began Aug. 7, will be in place “for the time being.”

AMC Theatres spokesman Ryan Noonan said, “We don’t comment on security measures publicly.” Other chains, including Cinemark and Carmike, didn’t respond to requests for comment.

Patrons attending a Thursday matinée at the Marketplace Drive theater — Regal’s other Maine theater is in Brunswick — wondered how much of a difference the searches will make. Mary Dionne, of Sidney, who watched “Mission: Impossible — Rogue Nation” with her middle-school-age son, Drew, said she understood the company’s effort to make people feel safe, but wondered whether the practice actually would enhance security.

“I’m not quite sure how I feel about it,” she said. “It seems if someone really wanted to take something in, I guess they would find some other way to do it.”

Ted Weymouth, of Monmouth, who planned to watch “Mission: Impossible” with his wife, Pat Weymouth, echoed Dionne’s concern. A handgun, Weymouth said, can be hidden in any number of areas outside of a bag, such as under a pant leg or in a waistband.

“They can check bags and stuff, but you can have a concealed handgun on you,” Weymouth said. “You don’t need a bag. Nothing is secure anymore.”

Still, Pat Weymouth said she supports any steps to improve safety. She said since the Colorado shooting she has felt some sense of unease whenever she watches a movie at a theater.

“I’m always looking around when I get in there,” Weymouth said. “It’s sad it has to be that way, but you have to watch out for yourself.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Craig Crosby — 621-5642

[email protected]

Twitter: @CraigCrosby4

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