When one rounds up the
usual suspects, Grandma is usually left out of the picture.
by DHAVAL MEHTA & JEREMY OLSHAN
But when Grandma Selma Moses took her grandson to the new
Disney picture, she was nearly left out on the street.
Walking hand in hand with her grandson, Moses arrived at the
New Cinemas of Main Street in Kew Gardens Hills. She gave the tickets to the usher, and
began to proceed inside. But she was stopped in her tracks, and told that they would have
to search her purse. When she questioned the intrusion, the usher explained that the
theater was checking for "outside candy."
Even though Moses was not carrying any contraband
confections, she refused to allow the usher to search her bag on the grounds that her
rights were being infringed upon.
"They were not looking for guns or alcohol," said
Moses, but outside candy. That is outrageous."
But the usher was not about to let Moses go. He explained
that if she would not allow for her purse to be searched, than the theater would be more
than happy to refund her tickets.
"Since I didnt want to disappoint my grandson, I
opened my bag for them," said Moses. Although, over the course of watching the movie,
Moses became incensed at the movie theaters policy.
She promptly contacted the Action Desk. "I think this is
a despicable policy," Moses said.
|Nonviolence Or Nonpareils
When the Action Desk contacted the theaters management,
they threatened to sue the Tribune.
When questioned further, the management explained that the
bag check policy was implemented as a safety measure.
"We were robbed three to four weeks ago at
gunpoint," said Paul Ferguson, attorney for the independently-owned New Cinemas of
Main Street. "Several thousands of dollars were lost. This is a mostly Jewish
neighborhood, so we have to be very careful. This is the perfect place for an attack,
people with guns are not good."
At the same time, Ferguson pointed out that no one is forced
to open their bags. "We dont insist on searching anything, she said." We
tell them to leave their purses and knapsacks in their cars, or to not bring them at all.
But critics of the policy contend that the motive is not to
insure the safety of moviegoers, as much as it to insures greater profits at the snack
"When you go into McDonalds you cant have
Burger King food," said one manager at the theater. "When you go into Carvel,
you cant be eating Baskin Robbins."
According to Heskel Elias, landlord and operator of several
movie theaters in Forest Hills, movie theaters generally make 35 percent of their income
from the concession stands. "We expect at least $2.50 from each person at the
concession stand," he said. Elias added that this profit motive is not in his mind
license to conduct routine bag checks. "What are we going to do, search through their
bags? I dont think its right."
The other large movie chains agreed.
"Our policy is also to not allow outside food,"
said Mark Pascucci, spokesman for Sony/Loews Theaters. "But on the other hand, we do
not search peoples bags. That is not our companys policy."
The theater gets an average of five complaints a day, said
New Cinemas manager Cheryl Wills.
"A few people have gone as far to call me Hitler,"
said Wills. "And several African American customers have said, we are slaves
all over again."
Wills added that the policy became necessary because
customers were bringing in whole platters of food.
"Chinese food is not a welcome staple at the movie
theater," said Wills. "And once, a person brought in a whole chicken. There are
certain things that you cannot have in the theater."
But is the movie theater within their legal rights to conduct
searches of patrons bags?
According to the Human Rights Commission, the city agency
that handles complaints of this nature, "yes."
"That is, unless someone is treated differently than
another customer. In those cases, a person may be able to make a claim," said Andres
Roura, spokesperson for the commission.
Moses was not sure if she was singled out. "The lady in
front of me had a purse and she was not checked," she said. "But I am not sure
if everyone else was."
Upon hearing the details of the case, Roura then invited
Moses to come in to his office and formally file a complaint.
When a customer continues to complain to the theater
management about the problem, the cinema send a form letter which states "At the time
you were here we did and still do have three signs conspicuously posted in the theater
advising our patrons that we allow absolutely no outside food or beverages within the
theater... I am sorry if you were not aware of the policy."
Enclosed with the apologetic letter are four free passes to
the theater which can be used at any time.
"At this point, I dont even care about an
apology," said Moses. "I just dont think they should be able to do this
By ED I. KOCH
|Movie theater operators are
becoming extremely aggressive in their efforts to increase profits they are
forbidding movie patrons from bringing candy and snacks into the theaters. They hope that
insatiable snackers who cant wait until they leave the theater will purchase candy
at theater snack bars at humongous prices.
will leave to the ACLU a detailed discussion of the law and whether what is taking place
is an invasion of privacy and a constitutional violation.
I had no hesitation when I was mayor in supporting the stop
and Breathalyzer testing of drivers on our highways in order to reduce the incidents of
drunken driving and the mayhem and tragedy that flows as a result of having an inebriated
driver behind the wheel.
But even in highway stop and searches, a car cannot be
stopped simply on the basis of a profile of the driver. The halting of a vehicle by police
in order to be lawful must be subject to a random selection, e.g. every 10th car, every
100th car or the best way, every car, to prevent selective enforcement and racial
discrimination which often takes place under these circumstances.
What profile are movie operators using? Apparently,
grandmothers accompanied by a tot between the ages of five and nine years old. On behalf
of grandmothers and tots everywhere, I call upon these movie outlaws to stop their
outrageous tactics. Candy for tots should not be interdicted.
If the movie operators continue, let them be on notice
Grandmothers, tots and their supporters can organize, and if they do, they can overwhelm
the theaters. They can decline to patronize the theaters, or if a movie is irresistible,
they can before the movie begins hoot the management at the top of their
If management declines to acquiesce, they should know
theyre in for one big hoot, repeated at least at every Saturday matinee and,
hopefully, at every performance.
I call upon the grandmothers and tots of this city to
organize. You have friends everywhere, and you have nothing to lose but your chocolate
bars. Stand up and be counted.
Finally, if you dare to strip search our grandmothers, we
their grandchildren will defend them. Why dont you pick on someone your own size?