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Hollywood's ArcLight theater evacuated as popcorn burns

December 19, 2012 |  9:45 pm

You don't have to be a legal scholar familiar with Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. or the landmark Schenk vs. United States decision from 1919 to know why shouting "fire" in a crowded movie theater -- when there is no real threat -- is a bad idea.

But some of those who were at the ArcLight in Hollywood Wednesday evening may have genuinely yelled the word, without fear of criminal prosecution, when a popcorn machine overheated and caught fire.

Gretchen McCourt, executive vice president of film programming for ArcLight, said the approximately 2,000 people at the theater on Sunset Boulevard were evacuated Wednesday evening for about a half-hour.

It appears the fire took place about 7 p.m., according to witnesses’ reports.

Patrons who were evacuated will also receive refunds, McCourt said.

When the popcorn machine overheated, ArcLight officials said, a few flames were exposed and a patron grabbed a fire extinguisher and quickly put out the blaze while nearby ArcLight staff helped.

Witnesses, including a former Los Angeles Times employee, said the upper level of the building was very smoky.

No one was injured in the incident, McCourt said.

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