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Stadium-Theatre Seating Approved by Court in ADA Litigation Brought by the Department of Justice in a Case Against Cinemark USA, Inc.

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    Stadium-Theatre Seating Approved by Court in ADA Litigation Brought by the Department of Justice in a Case Against Cinemark USA, Inc.

    Stadium-Theatre Seating Approved by Court in ADA Litigation Brought by the Department of Justice in a Case Against Cinemark USA, Inc.


    DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Nov. 30, 2001--In a decision that spells good news for the movie theatre industry nationwide, Cinemark USA, Inc. stadium-style theatres were found to be in full compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act by a federal district court sitting in Cleveland.

    The case of United States v. Cinemark was filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) under Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in March 1999. The Justice Department claimed that the hugely popular "stadium style," in use in many modern movie theatres, was illegal because patrons confined to wheelchairs could not transverse the steps used in such designs to the higher levels.

    The case had attracted nationwide attention in legal circles, in part because it has been seen as a bellwether for a dozen or so similar actions currently pending around the country. In addition to the lawsuit involving Cinemark, the Justice Department had filed parallel lawsuits against other large movie theatre operators -- AMC, United Artists and Loews, among them. The Cleveland decision is the first of those cases to be decided and is expected to impact the DOJ lawsuits, as well as a dozen or more other cases involving private litigants that are now pending nationwide. The case is also one of just a handful of decisions nationwide under Title III of the ADA, the statute that requires accommodation of the disabled by those who construct, own or operate businesses and other places open to the public.

    What is a Stadium-Style Theatre?

    Stadium-style theatres, which mimic the seating configurations of typical sports arenas, use progressively tiered and rising rows to provide customers with unobstructed views over the heads of customers sitting in front of them. Because each row is head and shoulders higher than the one before, the incline is too steep to safely ramp between rows; instead, steps must be used.

    What is the Impact of the Case?

    Lee Roy Mitchell, Cinemark's chief executive officer, said, "Stadium seating has transformed the movie-going experience. We strive to have the most modern stadium-style theatre circuit in the industry because that is what our customers demand. Since this case put stadium seating under attack, we are gratified, on behalf of our customers, that the court's decision will allow us to continue to offer our customers the type of movie-going experience they prefer."

    Mitchell continued, "We value all of our customers. When we began to build stadium seated theatres, this was a relatively new concept and the configurations have evolved over time. Stadium seating offers the best seating for all of our patrons."

    Mike Cavalier, vice president and general counsel at Cinemark, said, ""We are very pleased with this decision. This decision is an important complement to the favorable decision that Cinemark received from the 5th Circuit of Appeals in Lara v. Cinemark last April." Mr. Cavalier also remarked, ""Cinemark has painstakingly designed its theatres to comply with all laws. In fact, prior to this suit, Cinemark's designs have been approved in states whose accessibility codes have been certified as meeting or exceeding the requirements imposed by the ADA. This is simply a suit that should not have been filed."

    Laura M. Franze, a partner at Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. who was lead trial attorney for Cinemark, commented, "Not only did we prove that Cinemark complied with the DOJ regulations, but in three years of litigation, DOJ never came up with a coherent plan for what they considered acceptable under the law. They admitted that they wanted to keep the legal requirements 'flexible.' Flexibility, however, is not exactly a virtue when a company invests millions to design a place of public accommodation but can't rely on what the government says complies and what doesn't. Theatre owners must comply with literally hundreds of rules, regulations, standards and safety codes. It is essential for owners, operators, and customers that the guidelines be clear, definitive and logical." Ms. Franze added, "This court essentially told the DOJ that 'you don't get to make it up as they go along.' It is fundamentally unfair to change the rules after construction is complete. This case is good news not only for the movie industry, but also for any business or person that relies on governmental building construction regulations. I expect this case to impact ADA public accommodations litigation nationwide."

    Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P. represented Cinemark in the lawsuit. Partners Laura M. Franze and Brett M. Burns led the representation, with assistance from counsel Andrew M. Gould and Marcia N. Jackson associates Richard Cortez, Jr. and Jennifer A. Sweeney (Dallas Labor and Employment Section).

    Founded in 1945, Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P., a leading international law firm, numbers more than 1,000 lawyers with offices in Austin, Brussels, Dallas, Denver, Houston, London, Los Angeles, Moscow, New York, Northern Virginia, Philadelphia, Riyadh (affiliate), San Antonio and Washington. For additional information, please visit the Akin Gump web site at http://www.akingump.com.

    Cinemark USA, Inc. is the second largest theatre exhibitor in the United States and the largest U.S. exhibitor operating internationally, with 275 theatres and 2,979 screens in 33 states and internationally in Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Canada, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Honduras, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador, Peru and Taiwan. For more information about Cinemark theatres please visit cinemark.com. The case involved 71 Cinemark megaplexes featuring stadium seating across the country.

    CONTACT:

    Cinemark USA, Inc., Plano

    Mike Cavalier, 972/665-1108

    mcavalier@cinemark.com

    or

    Terrell Falk, 972/665-1087 or 972/948-9110 (mobile)

    tfalk@cinemark.com

    or

    Akin, Gump, Strauss, Hauer & Feld, L.L.P.

    Laura M. Franze, 214/969-2779

    lfranze@akingump.com

    or

    Katherine Kurtz, 214/969-2762

    kkurtz@akingump.com
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