US police have shot dead a man wielding an axe, a replica handgun and pepper spray at a movie theatre near Nashville, in terrifying echoes of two previous cinema shootings.
With only the attacker killed and three others slightly hurt, authorities said the outcome could have been much worse.
They hailed the rapid response of police who were at the Hickory 8 theatre in Antioch, Tennessee within minutes.
The man, who police identified as 29-year-old Vincente David Montano, wore a surgical mask and a backpack strapped to the front of his body, perhaps to protect him from the chemical spray.
It later transpired that he was carrying an airsoft pellet gun, not a real gun, although police did not know that at the time.
The backpack contained what Nashville police chief Steve Anderson called "a device configured to look like an explosive".
A second backpack left at the scene was also deemed not threatening.
Montano entered the theatre, where Australian director George Miller's Mad Max: Fury Road was playing, and fired pepper spray at viewers before an officer burst in through the projection room, followed by a SWAT team.
"He was shot, fatally wounded, and has been pronounced deceased at the scene," Nashville police spokesman Don Aaron said.
A shaken witness, who was reportedly struck with pepper spray along with his daughter, thanked police for saving their lives.
"I would ask anyone to pray for his family because he obviously has some mental problems or something else," he said.
A 58-year-old man sustained "superficial" injuries to his shoulder and arm from the axe and was also hit with the pepper spray.
Two women, aged 17 and 53, were also hit in the face with the spray.
The incident took place less than two weeks after a gunman opened fire in a cinema in Lafayette, Louisiana, killing two women and wounding nine others before taking his own life.
Both are reminiscent of the July 20, 2012 "Batman" massacre in which a shooter in Colorado opened fire on a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, killing 12 and harming 70 more.