January 16, 2006

Justice Dept. Announces Two Movie Theater Access Settlements -- Then One Appeals

In early January, the U.S. Dept. of Justice announced settlements of two large suits over access in stadium-style movie theaters.

On Jan. 9, DOJ

announced the filing of an agreed-upon consent order that resolves a lawsuit with NATIONAL AMUSEMENTS, INC. filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The trial on the civil suit, filed in December 2000 by the United States against the company, was scheduled to begin today. The lawsuit challenged the construction of stadium-style movie theaters that fail to provide persons who use wheelchairs with seating locations and lines of sight comparable to the general public. (Read press release from DOJ, via PRNewswire.).

Two days later, on Jan. 11, DOJ announced another settlement:

The Justice Department today announced the resolution of a lawsuit against American Multi-Cinema, Inc. and AMC Entertainment Inc., operators of one of the nation's largest chains of movie theaters, filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). On January 10, Judge Florence-Marie Cooper of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ordered AMC to remedy violations at AMC movie theaters that do not provide access to the stadium section for seating for individuals who use wheelchairs. (Read press release from DOJ, via US Newswire.)

And the Associated Press's David Twiddy reported the settlement:

AMC Entertainment Inc., the nation's second-largest movie theater chain, was ordered to upgrade seating for patrons in wheelchairs at 1,200 of its stadium-style movie auditoriums and pay $300,000 in penalties and civil damages to settle a U.S. lawsuit.

Justice Department officials said Wednesday the order settles its 1999 lawsuit against the company claiming AMC violated the Americans with Disabilities Act because it doesn't provide comparable seating for people in wheelchairs. (Read Justice Department settles AMC case (Associated Press via the Columbus (GA) Ledger-Inquirer.))

But then two days later, Twiddy had this story:

AMC to appeal judge's ruling on theater modifications

AMC Entertainment Inc. said Thursday it plans to appeal a federal judge's order requiring it to modify 1,200 movie auditoriums and give wheelchair-bound [sic] guests a better view of the screen.

That would seem to give new life to a 1999 lawsuit that the Justice Department said was resolved after U.S. District Judge Florence-Marie Cooper ordered AMC to make the changes. (Read AMC to appeal judge's ruling on theater modifications (Associated Press via the Kansas City Star.))

As Twiddy reported, DOJ has been moving in recent years against these large theater chains with suits over their stadium-style seating. Last week's announcements would have brought to four the number of cases resolved against the giant movie chains.

Except now AMC is appealing.

Posted on January 16, 2006