Several patrons at a screening of the movie United 93 at The Promenade at Howard Hughes Center in Westchester Friday, April 28th, complained of an irritating odor and respiratory discomfort after another patron “abruptly” left the theater, Los Angeles City Fire Department (LAFD) officials said.
Eighty-nine Los Angeles city firefighters were called to The Bridge: Cinema De Lux multiplex theater at the Howard Hughes Center at 4:40 p.m., where theater staff reported “suspicious circumstances,” fire department spokesman Brian Humphrey said.
Six LAFD rescue ambulances and two hazardous materials task forces were also called to the scene, as well as Los Angeles Police Department Pacific Community officers, who secured the perimeter.
According to witnesses, several of the 40 patrons who were watching the new film United 93 complained of an irritating odor and minor respiratory discomfort after one person “noticeably and abruptly” fled the upstairs theater, Humphrey said.
United 93 tells the story of the passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, the fourth plane hijacked on September 11th, 2001, that crashed into a Pennsylvania field.
Some patrons and witnesses surmised that there may have been a brief discharge of an irritant like pepper spray, but fire department hazardous materials experts with sensitive monitoring equipment found no evidence of a “lingering chemical hazard or toxic substance in the auditorium,” Humphrey said.
Two women requested treatment for nausea and were taken to a local hospital, he said.
There were no other injuries.
Prior to the arrival of firefighters, theater employees moved the patrons of the United 93 screening to the large lobby area of the theater, where they were sequestered.
Firefighters walked the 40 patrons outdoors and swiftly triaged, tagged and documented their status, Humphrey said.
Bystanders and guests from other theaters were kept apart from those potentially affected, he said.
Firefighters controlled the incident in 46 minutes.
With approval by the Los Angeles Fire Department Health Hazardous Materials Division, the theater was returned to the control of theater management.