Four patrons watching "The Godfather Part III" in a Valley Stream, N.Y., theater, were shot Tuesday night, one fatally, by two groups of young men who argued over noise.
Nassau County police described the groups as "heavily armed gangs" of from five to 10 each, one group sitting in the front row and the other near the back of the Sunrise Cinema Multiplex, located on Long Island near the New York City border.
Police said the panicked audience of about 600 fled for their lives as the two gangs opened fire on each other, about 20 minutes into the R-rated movie set in the world of the Mafia. The groups apparently missed their adversaries, but hit four bystanders in the crossfire, including the 15-year-old who died. Another victim was shot in the left eye. Police said 12 to 25 shots were fired from three automatic weapons, two handguns and other weapons.
"We don't know the exact nature of the argument," a police spokesman said. "The altercation escalated into almost a physical battle before the shooting began."
Police said the theater has a history of violence, with eight serious incidents reported in the last five years.
In Hollywood, at Mann's Chinese Theater, a teen-age boy suffered a seizure during the 4:15 p.m. showing and the film had to be stopped while paramedics arrived. A theater spokesman said that the interruption caused subsequent movie times to be delayed.
Business was reported brisk at many theaters. At the Cineplex Odeon Universal City, one patron, Duane Tudahl, said he and friends arrived at 2 p.m. and waited 45 minutes to buy a ticket. But the earliest available showing they could buy for was 7 p.m.