Thursday, November 18, 2010

A View to a Screen

I've been waiting 13 years for this.

It was 1997 when a friend and I went to a newly remodeled AMC theater. Got our tickets, found our theater, chose our seats... well... there really wasn't much choice. As a wheelchair user, this was basically my option:

Stadium-style seating was here and AMC clearly didn't give a rat's ass about the "viewing experience" of their disabled customers.

These seating arrangements place most seats higher than the seats immediately in front of them which means each higher row is up one step. Without giving a damn about the part of the ADA that requires wheelchair accessible seats to have a "comparable" line of sight to non-accessible seats, AMC smacked a few wheelchair spaces in the front row. Or, in even worse cases, they placed the accessible locations about three rows back and placed the seats in front at equal height guaranteeing an obstructed view if those seats were taken.

However, during any movie showing on any particular day, the audience avoids those front rows because they're crap:

AMC was 'changing the way the world sees movies' but all I was getting was a pain in the neck with slight nausea.

In 1999, The Justice Department sued AMC for not providing stadium-style seating to individuals who use wheelchairs.

Ahh... I remember 1999. Clinton was president and the economy was good. I also remember that this suit was often misconstrued as the disabled demanding that all seats be made wheelchair accessible or that stadium-style seating be outlawed. That's B.S. Just give me a clear view from a comfortable distance where I can enjoy the show with my friends.

It has always baffled me that AMC completely ignored a demographic that could have been their most loyal customers. Honestly, there's not a whole lot I can do with my friends. "Hey Kristen, you want to go skiing?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go bike riding?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go bungee jumping?" Umm no. "Hey Kristen, you want to go to the movies?" I'm there!

But not at AMC. I've avoided this lousy chain as much as possible. But it's been a sore spot. I'm disabled 24 hours a day, 365 days a year (366 in leap years!). Getting a bad seat isn't the same as an able-bodied person occasionally getting a bad seat. At an AMC theater, I (and my companions) will always get bad seats. And I will sit there, without protest, but my blood boils, my anger foments, and my fists clench.

In court documents, AMC admitted that "seats in the front of a movie theater are the “least desirable," and that seating in the rear portion of most theaters provides lines of sight that are the "most favored" and the "best in the house."

I had given up on seeing any progress in this ongoing case, but today, I saw the headline Cinema giant AMC settles Disabilities Act lawsuit with Justice Department. Finally.

But I have to laugh at the AMC spokesperson's PR platitude: "We are happy to settle this lawsuit in a cooperative manner and will be undertaking the required modifications to our theaters in the near future." Well, if it makes you so bloody happy, you could have made the changes 13 years ago.

I wonder how much longer I have to wait for the modifications.

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