WASHINGTON, D.C. -- 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.
"Providing the same movie going experience for individuals in wheelchairs that other patrons enjoy delivers on the promise of the ADA,” said Wan J. Kim, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. "These improvements will make the goals of the ADA a reality for thousands of Americans who want to enjoy this popular form of entertainment."
The ADA requires places of public accommodation, such as movie theaters, to provide equal access to persons with disabilities and prevents them from providing persons with disabilities a lower quality of goods and services than they provide other members of the general public. The court’s decision requires AMC to improve wheelchair seating at approximately 1,200 of AMC’s 1,933 stadium-style auditoriums, which includes providing ramps in over 360 auditoriums. The order also requires AMC theaters built in the next five years to comply with Justice Department guidance on ADA new construction requirements. In addition, AMC is ordered to pay $200,000 in damages to complainants who notified the Justice Department about problems with wheelchair access at AMC theaters. Finally, AMC is ordered to pay $100,000 in civil penalties for violation of the ADA.
The lawsuit filed in 1999 in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, alleged that the companies violated the ADA by denying movie-goers who use wheelchairs equal access to the stadium-style seating section at new movie theaters. In 2002, the court held AMC in violation of the ADA for failing to provide comparable lines of sight for patrons who use wheelchairs in AMC stadium-style theaters. In those theaters, seats are placed on risers at newly constructed theaters to provide unobstructed views with improved viewing angles. Except in AMC's largest auditoriums, patrons who use wheelchairs cannot generally get to the preferred seating area that is located on risers and accessed by stairs. In January 2003, the Court also held AMC in violation of ADA requirements for elements including entrances, exits, bathrooms, and concession stands that failed to meet ADA requirements.
The Department has achieved a successful record of making stadium-style movie theaters more accessible. The Justice Department recently negotiated consent orders with Cinemark USA, Inc., and with Regal Entertainment Group, which includes Hoyt’s Cinemas, to improve accessibility. On January 9, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Massachusetts also reached an agreement with National Amusements Inc., a movie theater chain based in Massachusetts, to improve wheelchair seating throughout its chain, which operates primarily in the northeastern United States.
Individuals interested in finding out more about the ADA or today's settlement can call the Department's toll-free ADA Information Line at (800) 514-0301 or (800) 514-0383/TTY or access the ADA Home Page at http: www.ada.gov.