Cinemark vs ALDA Update

This story just appeared in deafbayarea.com. It’s actually dated and not “new” news, but since I’ve been negligent about this blog, it is new news for the blog. No matter, some of you may have missed it the first time around. Better late than never. And oh yeah, that deafbayarea.com thing….new initiative/website….worth taking a peek at….where else can you see an hour and a half video of the 1966 NAD convention?


By Alan Fung-Schwarz

Linda Drattell, who works at Deaf Counseling, Advocacy, and Referral Agency (DCARA) as a counselor for late-deafened adults, says she was informed of potential progress in the class-action lawsuit against Cinemark for failing to provide accessibility for the deaf and hard-of-hearing community.

“Cinemark intends to provide the caption-display capability within 90 days of converting the complex to digital projection,” says John Waldo, one of the lawyers representing the Association of Late-Deafened Adults, suggesting that if an agreement is reached, the conversion “would likely all occur by the end of 2011.”

The captioning method is likely to be rear-window captioning.

“Cinemark is currently alone of the three major theatre chains in providing no form of captioning to deaf and hard of hearing customers. I had to watch Season of the Witch, a movie I didn’t like, because there were no other choices,” says Drattell, “Before I lost my hearing, I used to go to Blackhawk Cinemark Theatre with my family after dinner. Now, I can’t.”

“It would cost only 4 million dollars to equip the screens in California with Rear Window Captioning equipment.”

In New Jersey, a similar lawsuit was filed in 2004 against Regal Cinemas for refusing to install accommodations for people with hearing or vision loss. The New Jersey Attorney General Peter C. Harvey at the time estimated that the cost of installing Open Captioning equipment is $12,500 per screen, while Rear Window Captioning equipment is $10,000 per screen and Descriptive Video Service is $2,000 per screen. Cinemark currently has 295 theaters with 3,854 screens in 39 states and in the 2010 third quarterly results reported earning an adjusted EBITDA of $125.1 million on revenue of $560.2 million, and raised its quarterly cash dividend to $0.21 per share.

On April 30, 2010, in the case Arizona v. Harkins Amusement, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit overturned the district court, which had ruled that the American with Disabilities Act (ADA) and Arizonans with Disabilities Act (AzDA) did not require movie theaters to alter the content of their services to accommodate the people with hearing or vision disabilities. The Court of Appeals in San Francisco concluded that a movie theater may be required to provide accessibility because closed captioning and audio descriptions are classified as “auxiliary aids and services,” which is covered under the ADA.

It was based on this favorable ruling that the plaintiffs, Linda Drattell and Rick Rutherford, and the Association of Late-Deafened Adults (ALDA) filed a civil lawsuit on November 30, 2010 against Cinemark USA, Inc. in California’s Alameda Superior Court, alleging violation of the American with Disabilities Act, California’s Unruh Civil Rights Acts and Disabled Persons Act. In § 52(a) of the Unruh Civil Rights Act is a provision that, if the rights of people to equal enjoyment of services provided by a person operating a place of public accommodation have been violated, that the violators are liable for up to three times the amount of actual damage or no less than $4,000 per occurrence.

“We hope that Cinemark will install effective captioning rather than let it go to court,” says Drattell.

Cinemark USA, Inc. did not respond to our requests for comments.

 

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