A federal appeals court in Los Angeles ruled Wednesday that Regal Cinemas failed to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act in some theaters where wheelchair-bound patrons had to sit in the front rows of stadium-design cinemas.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled 2-1 that Regal — a division of No. 1 U.S. theater operator Regal Entertainment Group — broke the law by failing to provide disabled patrons the same movie-viewing sight lines enjoyed by other moviegoers. The ruling reversed a lower court ruling, one of several recent court decisions involving handicapped access to stadium-seat cinemas.
Activists have sued Regal, AMC Entertainment and other exhibs in several jurisdictions, claiming stadium configurations fail to provide equally attractive viewing opportunities for the disabled. No clear pattern has yet emerged in rulings to date, however.
Exhibs have argued that only the oldest of their venues force wheelchair-bound patrons to sit up front, with most locations featuring later designs that offer wheelchaired viewing in other parts of theaters. Circuits further contend that federal regulators have resisted industry requests for more clarity on how to comply with ADA requirements.
In the case decided by the L.A. appeals court, the Oregon Paralyzed Veterans of America and three disabled women sued Regal over seating in six stadium-style theaters in Oregon.