DOJ Announces ADA Settlement with Movie Theater Chain

According to the department, the agreement will improve the movie-going experience for people who use wheelchairs and their companions at AMC stadium-style theaters nationwide.

The Justice Department on Nov. 18 announced a settlement agreement with AMC Entertainment Inc. to resolve a lawsuit filed under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). The suit challenged, among other things, the design of stadium-style movie theaters that fail to provide persons who use wheelchairs with comparable lines of sight to those of other moviegoers. AMC is the second largest movie theater chain in the country with about 5,300 screens.

"Going to the movies is an archetypal American leisure activity," said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights. "We are pleased that AMC is taking steps to provide persons who use wheelchairs with access to the enhanced viewing experience of stadium-style theaters."

The settlement agreement will improve the movie-going experience for people who use wheelchairs and their companions at AMC stadium-style theaters nationwide, DOJ said. All stadium-style theaters opened by AMC after entry of the decree will be constructed in accordance with design requirements that place accessible seating near the middle of the auditorium. During the course of the lawsuit, AMC, with DOJ's approval, made changes to its stadium theater design template that provided full accessibility to its newly constructed theaters. Additionally, at nearly 250 existing stadium-style theaters across the country, AMC has agreed to make sure that a specified percentage of auditoriums provide wheelchair spaces and companion seating in the stadium section. AMC also will move wheelchair seating from the front row to locations further back from the screen and otherwise ensure that movie patrons who use wheelchairs enjoy an unobstructed view of the screen. Additionally, stadium-style theaters acquired by AMC during the five-year term of the order also will be required to provide enhanced lines of sight and improved accessibility for patrons who use wheelchairs.

Stadium-style theaters are designed to offer superior lines of sight and a superlative movie-going experience. However, in early stadium theater designs, accessible seating was often located at or near the very front of the auditoriums. According to DOJ, the Nov. 18 agreement will afford movie patrons who use wheelchairs and their companions the opportunity to enjoy the same product as other moviegoers.

DOJ filed suit to enforce the ADA in January 1999 in federal court in Los Angeles. The suit was based upon private complaints filed with DOJ and its own investigation. The Nov. 18 settlement agreement has been submitted to the federal district court in the Central District of California and is subject to the review and approval by Judge S. James Otero.

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