Progress in Arizona movie access litigation

Monday, 18 January 2010 12:25pm

The Arizona Attorney General’s Department has sued the Harkins Theater Chain for not providing captions and audio description for its movies in contravention of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Although it is likely to be another 4-6 months until the legal process is played out, early indications are that the judges in the Federal Appeals Court are moving towards requiring access to the chain. 

The three judges hearing the case demonstrated a keen interest in the issue and grilled the lawyer for Harkins about why his company didn’t just “do the right thing” and provide the technology to allow people with hearing and vision impairments to enjoy movies. At several points the judges expressed surprise that Harkins had chosen to fight this case so hard. 

Judge Alex Kozinski said, “You are going to lose eventually. I don’t know if you are going to lose this case or not, but you are going to lose this battle in the end. You can get out in front of it and be the good guys, or you can be dragged kicking and screaming and look like jerks. I don’t understand why you are choosing to fight this battle.”

The court recognised that the legal issues before it must be considered in light of the modern movie industry. As Judge Kozinski noted, “Theatres cost huge amounts of money. A movie theatre is no longer a barn with a sheet at one end and a bunch of chairs. You have all sorts of sophisticated technology, 3D viewing and so on. This seems like a drop in the bucket.”

If the parties do not settle the case, as the judges strongly encouraged them to do, a written court decision will be issued at an unspecified date in the future.

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Tags: Cinema