You are almost never "surprised" that it is dark. If you go out after sundown guess what...it will likely be somewhat dark. So if you go into a movie theater at 8PM and it was dark when you go there and you leave at 10 PM we can assume it will still be what? Dark. So go ahead and get teh light in hand. No reason not to palm your light as you go to your car.
Most of the time (unless we are talking about clearing a building) a flashlight is a luxury not a necessity. It is almost never pitch black outside. There are very few instances where there is not enough ambient light to still read body language and intent. And enough ambient light to shoot by. Especially when the target is approaching us trying to rob us. They don't rob you from across the parking lot. They get CLOSE to you. They have to in order to take anything from you.....so the NEED for a flashlight for a civilian to shoot (other than indoors at night with the lights off) is GREATLY overstated.
And before the cops jump in and say that leads to mistaken identity shootings, let us remember civilians are not out trying to arrest people. They are reacting to a physical assault. It is pretty easy to tell when somone is approaching you and trying to hurt you. Not as easy to tell what the guy you just ordered to stop and show his hands is doing. So there is a bit of a difference between taking people into custody and walking to your car at night in the Wal Mart parking lot.
In a typical civilian criminal assault reactive shooting you will either have the light in hand when it starts or not. If you do then you'll probably use it. If not you'll probably use it after the fight is over. No one fast draws a light mid fight. At least no one I have ever seen doing it against a real live opponent. Most have a hard enough time just getting off the X and getting their gun out much less trying to fish their light out too.
Accessing the light needs to be part of the "pre fight" not try to do it while under attack. And most of the time in an urban environment there is plenty enough light to shoot without having to use the light. The light is primarily to identify or at least to help see what is in their hands. Secondary use is to deescalate. No one wants to be SEEN attacking someone. Light causes witnesses to look that way. It can also be used as a distraction device. But NEEDING one to be able to shoot in an urban or suburban environment (with lots of ambient light like street lights and business lights) is just not likely.
Suarez International Tier 1 Staff Instructor