With the recent change in admission policies by Regal theaters, the internet is abuzz with constitutional experts espousing opinions on how the movie house is violating their constitutional right not to be searched. The problem is that they can search you. Much of the law in Texas in this area either deals with employee bags being searched or with searching bags as you exit a store. The employee search issue isn’t relevant here, and raises issues that only apply to the employer/employee relationship. Bag searches at exits are geared towards reducing theft loss and must be consensual unless the store has a reasonable suspicion that you have stolen something. In addition, stores have justification under the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code  for such searches. The issue of searching bags as you exit is irrelevant here though because Regal has stated in their policy that the reason for the search is for security and that it will only happen prior to admission. Some stores like Sam’s club that require membership make showing your receipt and searching your bags a part of their membership agreement.  If you don’t comply, then you are in violation of the membership agreement and they don’t have to let you in. That is the scenario most like what we are dealing with here.
Businesses can limit who and what enters their property to ensure the safety and enjoyment of other guests. As long as the business is open to the public and is not excluding people based on their membership in a protected class, courts will generally uphold restrictions on entry if they are reasonable to achieve that purpose. Movie theaters have for years excluded outside food and drink because they want to sell you their product at a markup. Bars can exclude intoxicated patrons to keep them from harming others or from harming themselves on the bar property. The end result is that yes, the movie theater can search your bag and if you don’t like it, you can go watch the movie somewhere else.
From the perspective of the movie theater, why would you want to search bags? It is an employee intensive operation that is rife with liability. What if a patron says that the employee touched them without consent? What if the patron says their property was damaged or stolen by the employee? What is the employee going to do if they find something? I doubt Regal theaters has trained the guy checking bags on spotting IED’s or weapons much less on relieving a hostile actor of such property. The other issue is that guns are legal in theaters in Texas. Unless the theater posts a compliant sign or otherwise complies with the law, they have not given notice that the guns are prohibited.
I don’t go to the movie theater for a variety of reasons, but the last time I did, there wasn’t a person there that was old enough to possess a handgun. Are the underage employees going to attempt to disarm the patrons? If they send the patron back to the parking lot, now a whole line of people has seen that there is an unattended firearm in that person’s vehicle. Even if you overcome all that, a quick internet search reveals that a bag isn’t necessary to hide a slew of guns on your person, so their policy isn’t likely to make the movie going public any safer.
Security issues have become a daily part of our lives in America. Regal Entertainment Group wants our customers and staff to feel comfortable and safe when visiting or working in our theatres. To ensure the safety of our guests and employees, backpacks and bags of any kind are subject to inspection prior to admission. 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.
 Sec. 124.001. DETENTION. A person who reasonably believes that another has stolen or is attempting to steal property is privileged to detain that person in a reasonable manner and for a reasonable time to investigate ownership of the property. Acts 1985, 69th Leg., ch. 959, Sec. 1, eff. Sept. 1, 1985.
 Receipts: To ensure that you are charged correctly for the merchandise you have selected, you will be requested to show your receipt when exiting.
Sam’s Club reserves the right to inspect any container, backpack, briefcase and so forth upon entering or leaving the Club and to refuse entry to anyone at our discretion.
 Sec. 22.01. ASSAULT. (a) A person commits an offense if the person:… (3) intentionally or knowingly causes physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive or provocative
 Sec. 30.06. TRESPASS BY HOLDER OF LICENSE TO CARRY CONCEALED HANDGUN. . . . (2) received notice that: (A) entry on the property by a license holder with a concealed handgun was forbidden; or (B) remaining on the property with a concealed handgun was forbidden and failed to depart.
(b) For purposes of this section, a person receives notice if the owner of the property or someone with apparent authority to act for the owner provides notice to the person by oral or written communication.. . .
(3) “Written communication” means:
(A) a card or other document on which is written language identical to the following: “Pursuant to Section 30.06, Penal Code (trespass by holder of license to carry a concealed handgun), a person licensed under Subchapter H, Chapter 411, Government Code (concealed handgun law), may not enter this property with a concealed handgun”; or (B) a sign posted on the property that: (i) includes the language described by Paragraph (A) in both English and Spanish; (ii) appears in contrasting colors with block letters at least one inch in height; and (iii) is displayed in a conspicuous manner clearly visible to the public.