Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires that public accommodations must be “readily accessible to and usable by individuals with disabilities.” The U. S. Department of Justice (DOJ) is empowered to adopt regulations to enforce the ADA. The DOJ adopted Standard 4.33.3 for movie theaters, which provides,
Wheelchair areas shall be an integral part of any fixed seating plan and shall be provided so as to provide people with physical disabilities a choice of admission prices and lines of sight comparable to those for members of the general public. They shall adjoin an accessible route that also serves as a means of egress in case of emergency. At least one companion fixed seat shall be provided next to each wheelchair seating area. When the seating capacity exceeds 300, wheelchair spaces shall be provided in more than one location. Readily removable seats may be installed in wheelchair spaces when the spaces are not required to accommodate wheelchair users.
Cinemark USA, Inc., owns and operates movie theaters throughout the United States. Cinemark has constructed stadium style movie theaters. The theaters have a stadium style seating configuration, with the rows of seats rising at a relatively steep grade to provide better “sight lines” for movie patrons. The stadium style seating is inaccessible for wheel chair using patrons. For wheelchair using patrons, the theaters provide a flat area in front of the screen where these patrons do not have the same sight line to the screen as non wheelchair using patrons. The United States sued Cinemark, alleging that the seating arrangement in Cinemark stadium style theaters violated Standard 4.33.3 and Title III of the ADA. Does Cinemark’s wheelchair seating arrangement in its stadium style theaters violate Standard 4.33.3 and Title III of the ADA? United States of America v. Cinemark USA, Inc., 348 F. 3d 569, 2003 U. S. App. Lexis 22757 (United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, 2003)