Hearing impaired file class action against Cinemark

November 30, 2010 5:50:08 PM PST
A class action lawsuit filed against a well-known movie chain is aimed at helping the deaf and hearing impaired. They want the same right to enjoy movies as those without hearing disabilities.

More than 200 million Americans went to the movies last year, according to the Motion Picture Association. Linda Drattell, one of the plaintiffs, was not one of them -- she is deaf.

"I can't enjoy a movie," says Drattell. "My daughter who sings, I can no longer hear her sing."

Drattell, 53, lost her hearing late in life. Rick Rutherford, another plaintiff, lost his hearing 11 years ago.

"I used to go to the movies on a weekly basis. It was a wonderful experience. We would all decide 'Which one should we see this week?'" says Rutherford.

The two are plaintiffs in a class action lawsuit filed against the Cinemark movie theatre chain, which owns Century Theatres. The suit charges that Cinemark discriminates against the deaf and those with hearing loss by not providing closed captioned movies.

Their attorney Kevin Knestrick says the suit comes on the heels of a 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

"The 9th Circuit essentially said that closed caption films are an auxiliary aid that theatres need to provide," says Knestrick.

The suit targets Cinemarks' Theatres in Alameda County, where Drattell and Rutherford live.

Lawyers who filed the suit say about 85 percent of first run movies are captioned when they're delivered to theatres like this one. All the theatres have to do is install the equipment.

"The cost is around $10,000 for what's called rear window captioning," says Knestrick.

The theatre mounts an LED screen in the back of the theatre that displays the captioned dialogue which is on a CD.

The moviegoer is given a small plastic screen which reflects the captions. It is as simple as that.

"We are trying to enjoy ourselves just like any other American would like to do," says Drattell. "And what would you want to happen to yourself if you should lose your hearing tomorrow?"

Cinemark's corporate office did not return ABC7's calls.


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