You may recall that back in June the Alamo Drafthouse, a movie theater in Austin, Texas, screened Wonder Woman for women only. The event sold out almost immediately and grew so popular that New York and Denver theaters hosted similar screenings. Despite all the excitement, barrages of criticism from men overshadowed the Alamo Drafthouse’s announcement, courtesy of misguided testosterone claiming the cinema discriminated against men unlawfully.
As a result, the Drafthouse’s Facebook page was littered with comments like, “Imagine the shitstorm is there was any male only showing of anything…or a private showing for a specific race or sexual orientation…Nah it’s SJW approved.” Hundreds, if not thousands, of similar sentiments riddled through social media and quickly became something of a spectacle.
Many websites and publications–Playboy included–quickly dismissed the complaints as “petty” and “nonsensical,” which they are. But the law may be on their side.
Several official complaints have been filed with the city and the Austin-based theater has since stepped back from their initial position (which was pretty damn salty) in a letter to the city, apologizing for hosting the screenings and admitting it was in violation of the city’s anti-discrimination laws.
“Respondent did not realize that advertising a ‘women’s-only’ screening was a violation of discrimination laws,” the theater wrote. “Respondent has a very strict non-discrimination policy in place, but this policy did NOT include a specific prohibition against advertising.”
One complaint who’s been more vocal on the matter is Albany law professor Stephen Clark, who explains he filed because the announcement, and the way the theatre handled its backlash, didn’t sit well with him. Clark suggests that, in addition to discriminating against audiences, the theater’s statement that it would solely staff female employees the night of the screening could also be problematic.
“I’m a specialist in anti-discrimination law, so I was fairly certain that this was not lawful,” Clark, a gay man, told MyStatesman Austin. “If they were trying to do a gay-only 'Brokeback Mountain,’ I would feel the same way.”
Clark adds, “Their attitude was really off-putting to me,” he said. “Granted, a number of the men posting were nasty, but if you’re the one hosting the event and you’re already teetering on the edge of illegality, you might dial back the rhetoric.”
As it turns out, the naysayers may have a point. MyStatesman notes, “Austin city code bans a public accommodation — which specifically includes a movie theater — from limiting its service or goods on the basis of race, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identification or other factors. It also bars such places from advertising or posting any published statement that indicates services will be limited to certain people.”
To keep things civil, the Alamo Drafthouse has offered to send these men DVD versions of the film and promise to update their discrimination policies in addition to issuing a staff-wide letter. If the litigants do not accept these terms, the city may launch an investigation into the reports and the theater could face possible repercussions.