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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
Courthouse News Service Courthouse News Service

AMC No Help to Blind Moviegoers, Class Says

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) - Like many fathers, San Francisco resident Scott Blanks likes to take his wife and two sons to the movies.

But Blanks is blind, and he says AMC Theaters routinely deprives him of the opportunity to enjoy a night at the movies with his family by giving him bad equipment.

Blind movie patrons are lost when trying to enjoy many films at AMC Theaters due to a lack of properly working audio-description devices, Blanks claims in a federal class action filed Tuesday.

The case was Courthouse News' top download on Wednesday.

Blanks, the California Council of the Blind and others say AMC Theaters is one of the nation's top movie theater chains, but it routinely denies blind patrons the opportunity to enjoy going to the movies.

"AMC supposedly offers audio-description devices to blind customers. However, AMC rarely provides appropriate, functioning audio-description devices to blind customers. Instead, AMC routinely provides the wrong technology when customers request audio description devices, or audio transcription devices that are nonfunctioning or so malfunctioning that they are useless to blind customers," Blanks says in the complaint.

Blanks and the others say they repeatedly find the devices are unavailable, aren't fully charged, play the wrong audio descriptions, or otherwise do not work. Adding insult to injury, AMC staff often give them the devices intended for deaf people, the plaintiffs say.

"If a blind customer gets the correct device at all, it is usually because AMC staff sought assistance from management, which takes addition time" and makes them late for the opening scenes, Blanks says in the complaint.

Movie studios create and distribute audio-description devices to movie theaters. The devices are headsets that blind people wear in order to listen to synchronized audio descriptions containing narration and visual elements of the film as it is played.

"Without audio description, blind individuals watching a movie do not know what is happening in scenes without dialogue and may misunderstand the meaning of other scenes. Thus, audio description is essential for blind viewers to understand movies," Blanks says in the complaint.

He says the movie studios also create and provide the audio-description tracks for most widely released and distributed movies.

Blanks says AMC owns and operates more than 300 movies theaters across the country, including six of the nation's 10 highest-grossing theaters. The company also has the top share the nation's three largest local movie theater markets.

"Despite this strong record of providing entertainment to millions of Americans, AMC fails to provide equivalent services to individuals who are blind or visually impaired," Blanks says in his complaint.

Blanks and the class want a court declaration that AMC discriminates against blind and visually impaired movie patrons, an order that AMC ensures its equipment works properly, and attorney's fees and legal costs for violating the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Named defendants include AMC Entertainment, AMC Entertainment Holdings, and American Multi-Cinema.

The other named plaintiffs include Leah Gardner, Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired, Charles Nabarrete, Robert Schulenburg and Empish Thomas.

AMC Theaters did not immediately respond to telephone and email requests for comment on Wednesday.

Attorneys Rebecca Williford of Berkeley-based Disability Rights Advocates and San Francisco attorney Michael Nunez of Rosen Bien Galvan & Grunfeld represent the plaintiffs. They did not immediately respond to phone requests for comment on Wednesday afternoon.

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