One survivor had to pause on his way into the theater and pray.
Another braced for flashbacks as he entered the auditorium where 12 people died and dozens were injured during a massacre six months ago. Others refused to come, viewing the reopening of the multiplex as insensitive.
The former Century 16, now renovated and renamed Century Aurora, opened its doors to victims of the July 20 attack Thursday night with a somber remembrance ceremony and a special showing of "The Hobbit."
The mayor of Aurora, governor of Colorado and archdiocese of Denver all made speeches honoring the victims, victims' families, emergency responders and hospital workers.
"We all suffered in your suffering," said Hickenlooper.
Pierce O'Farrill, wounded three times in the shooting, made a point of finding his old seat in the second row of the theater. He called it "just a part of closure."
Tom Sullivan, whose son, Alex, was killed, also attended. He said, "Nobody is going to stop us from living our lives the way that we lived our lives before."
Alex's widow, Cassandra Sullivan, joined a boycott of the event. So did Tom Teves, whose own son, Alex, also was killed.
Many who attended said this is a page the community had to turn to move forward.
"This is huge for Aurora and good for the community," said Destiny Dykes, who was watching a midnight movie that night, but not in the theater that came under attack. "I don't understand the negativity surrounding the reopening of this theater."
Dykes is impressed by the changes made to the theater. She called it open, bright and full of great energy. She said she looks forward to visiting the theater again under more relaxed circumstances.
"I feel the police presence here is unnecessary," said Dykes.
Around every corner and at each entrance and exit of the theater, uniformed and armed guards were positioned. Cinemark did not indicate how regularly armed police may be stationed at the theater.
Jesenia Ledsma was grateful for the police in attendance. One thing she'll remember about the night is getting the chance to talk with police officers about what happened in July.
"I was nervous but I'm really glad I did come," said Ledesma, who returned to theater 9 (now named theater I) with her husband Jose. "If we had boycotted it would be like letting [James Holmes] control the community.
Victims have filed at least three federal lawsuits against Texas-based Cinemark Holdings Inc., alleging it should have provided security for the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises," which was showing when the attack occurred.
The theater will be open to the public through Monday. It will be showing movies for free according to a theater spokesperson. Century Aurora will then close for a few days and reopen as a normal theater January 25.