A few nights ago some “mentally-challenged” guy ruined (or came close to ruining) a screening of Gravity for the parents of a guy I know. It happened during a sold-out showing at the Cinemark/Rave theater in Manchester, Connecticut. The guy was making spastic noises all through the film. Audible to many but nobody squawked except for my friend’s dad. When he confronted theater management “they didn’t want to hear any of it” and said “we can’t not allow someone in because they have a disability.” The discussion continued and they finally offered him two free tickets. The bottom line is that the Manchester theatre manager felt it was preferable to put his customers through a major annoyance than risk being seen as bigoted toward handicapped people.
HE’s position is that nobody but nobody is allowed to disturb others when a film is playing. You have to be quiet or you have to go — that’s it, no discussion.
Here’s what my friend’s father wrote a couple of days ago to Scott Thompson, president of the Cinemark Theatre Group:
“I have what I’m sure is a hot button topic, one that will likely engender a canned, already-written- response, but it’s a topic I hope that you will give a few minutes of your time to address. I am writing about your policy of not removing disorderly people from your auditoriums. I went to a Real-D 3-D showing of Gravity last night — along with at least 500 other patrons at your Manchester, CT theater — and unfortunately, an inconsiderate adult brought her three children along, one of whom clearly suffered from an intense form of Down Syndrome.
“Unfortunately, your management decided to sell a ticket to a family who rudely chose to bring their Down Syndrome child to the film. He appeared to be significantly impaired in that he would yell out loud every few minutes, thus distracting everyone else in the theater. This is no more different than someone chatting on their cell phone, or texting with a bright LED light, or a group of teenagers showing up to do everything but watch the film at hand. I don’t blame the disabled child in the slightest. That is his unfortunate condition. I believe his parent was an insensitive moron for bringing him to the film so that she could see the film.
“But here’s my real issue:
“You begin your presentations by promising to evict anyone who uses their cell phone during the film. You have a policy of not allowing anyone under 17 to an R rated film. You also practice a rare and actually thoughtful rule of not allowing anyone under the age of 6 into an R-rated feature after 5pm, so as not to disturb the many adults who actually took the time to hire a sitter for the kids for the night. So you clearly run a business that allows you to make what some might refer to as ‘discriminatory’ decisions. Yet you seem incapable — from a management standpoint — of standing up to a customer and telling them that this is not an appropriate venue for their disabled child, who is interfering with the enjoyment of the rest of the crowd.
“More to the point, you are clearly willing to reduce the enjoyment of the product (in this case: Real-D 3-D which drives your price point north) that you are selling for 500 people for fear of upsetting that one individual who should have the common sense not to put their child in this situation in the first place. Certainly any number of people could have gotten up and asked your manager to remove the child/parent. But the real truth is that no one wants to be ‘that’ person. The result is that their enjoyment of the film had to suffer. You could easily have remedied that situation by indicating a policy that respects the 500 over the one.
“Let me repeat: I do not for a SECOND blame the child. But I do blame the idiot parent and I do hold you, the Cinemark Theatre Group, to a higher level of conduct.
“I would like a response about what policies you have considered to address issues like this. Why isn’t their a blanket rule statement that reads something to the effect of: ‘Any persons who interfere with the enjoyment of a show for the other people around them will be asked to leave the premises.”
“Your manager’s pathetic response was, ‘Oh, we couldn’t possibly not sell the ticket to her.’ The implication in his extended conversation with me was a ‘fear of being sued/being seen as discriminatory/insensitive’ etc. Nowhere was the consideration of the 500+ patrons discussed or valued.”