Cinemark has clear line of sight in court

Federal appeals court reverses decision against theater chain

A federal appeals court in New Orleans has reversed a lower court judgment against theater chain Cinemark USA over sightlines for moviegoers in wheelchairs.

Original lawsuit, filed in Texas, charged that Cinemark’s stadium seating designs failed to provide clear views from wheelchair areas. Case involved each of Cinemark’s 2,736 screens, but arose from the layouts of some of the circuit’s newest megaplexes.

Attorneys with Dallas law firm Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, which repped Cinemark in the case, said the appeals court ruling effectively kills the suit.

The New Orleans court decided last Thursday that the exhib was properly following guidelines of the Americans With Disabilities Act. Its ruling cautioned against requiring district courts to “interpret the ADA based upon the subjective and undoubtedly diverse preferences of disabled moviegoers.”

Impact on exhibs

Execs at Cinemark, the No. 5 U.S. theater chain, said the ruling would help other exhibs fend off similar claims. ADA lawsuits are pending against AMC, United Artists and Loews.

“Stadium seating has changed the moviegoing experience for Americans,” said Randy Hester, the company’s VP of marketing. “This case put stadium seating under attack, and we are pleased that the court’s decision approved of our seating design.”

The case gained a national profile in legal and entertainment circles. The National Assn. of Theater Owners and the American Institute of Architects filed friend of the court briefs in favor of Cinemark. The Justice Dept. did likewise for the plaintiffs.

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