A 51-year-old, white suspect is dead after he opened fire at a cinema near Nashville, Tennessee.

Nashville Metro Police confirmed that a man armed with a gun, pepper spray and a hatchet, was shot dead by police during a screening of Mad Max.

Police were called to the scene at the Carmike 8 Cinemas in the suburb of Antioch.

Metro Police spokesman Don Aaron told local media that the suspect, who has not been identified, was armed with a gun and hatchet. He was wearing a surgical mask and had canisters of chemical spray.

After injuring one person with the hatchet during a showing of "Mad Max: Fury Road," the suspect fired the gun at a Metro police officer at the theatre, who returned fire while backing outside.

The alleged gunman, who was found in the projection room, was killed by a SWAT team.

Nashville Fire Department spokesman Brian Haas said two women, aged 53 and 17 years, were doused with pepper spray by the suspect.

A 58-year-old man received a "superficial" wound in the shoulder, possibly from the axe. WSMV also reports that witnesses saw a person covered with blood.

Authorities are now investigating two backpacks at the scene believed to belong to the shooter.

An employee working near the cinema told WKRN she heard shots fired outside the building of the theatre.

Local businesses are reportedly placed on lockdown as a result of the incident.

A SWAT team is on the scene.

The latest reports come one month after a gunman killed two people at a cinema in Lafayette, Louisiana.

In 2012, James Holmes killed 12 people during a showing of a Batman film in Aurora, Colorado.