Back in May, Austin-based movie theater chain Alamo Drafthouse created quite a stir when it advertised special women-only screenings of the then-upcoming movie Wonder Woman. The screenings (a couple of which happened in Dallas) sold out almost immediately, but they generated an outcry from some critics who called the screenings discriminatory. Even the mayor of Austin got involved with a letter that went viral.
(Full disclosure: I thought those critics needed to seriously chill out. I still hold the opinion that it was not worth the tears.)
Well, the critics won a small victory: The Austin American-Statesman reports that the Alamo Drafthouse has acknowledged that promoting those screenings was "a violation of Austin's equality laws."
Austin law bans public places (like movie theaters) from limiting service -- or indicating through advertising that it will limit it -- based on race, sex, sexual orientation, etc. Two people, Albany, N.Y. law professor Stephen Clark and an unidentified man, filed formal complaints with the city.
Something worth noting: It was the Alamo Drafthouse, not a court of law, that came forward and said that advertising women-only screenings broke the discrimination rules. The chain's director of real estate and development, Missy Reynolds, said in a settlement offer that the theaters would not, in fact, have turned away any men who bought tickets to the screening.
The letter admits that Alamo Drafthouse made two mistakes:
"1) Respondent [Alamo Drafthouse] greatly underestimated the popularity of these screenings, including the good and bad fan comments.
"2) Respondent 'advertised' the event as women's-only. Respondent did not realize that advertising a 'women's-only' screening was a violation of discrimination laws. Respondent has a very strict non-discrimination policy in place, but this policy did NOT include a specific prohibition against advertising."
As part of the settlement, Alamo Drafthouse will update their existing discrimination policy, social media policy and training materials, using this experience as a case study. They will also, interestingly, "provide a free DVD of Wonder Woman to" the two men who filed complaints against them.
Couldn't spring for the Bluray, I guess. Alamo Drafthouse doesn't want to admit that much fault, I take it.
Now it's up to the complainants to agree to or turn down this settlement offer. One of the complainants previously offered to settle for $8,892, which according to the American-Statesman is "roughly three times the estimated value of tickets and concessions for the women-only screenings."