Tuesday, October 27, 2015

ACLU calls out Birmingham movie theater for prohibiting minors

Posted By on Tue, Oct 27, 2015 at 1:25 PM

Despite its notoriously upscale offerings, downtown Birmingham has long been a popular hangout for teens — no doubt due to its high degree of walkability. (Metro Detroit urban planners: take note!) But some businesses seem to be attempting to shoo away this demographic.

Such is the case with the recently renovated Emagine Palladium, which announced a ban on minors unaccompanied by an adult earlier this month. The only way minors can enter the theater without adult supervision is if their families subscribe to the theater's “platinum membership” — which costs $350 annually.

Previously known as the Palladium 12, the theater re-opened earlier this month as the Emagine Palladium with new amenities like reclining theater seats, an attached bar and restaurant, and a new policy regarding minors. According to the theater's website:

No non-member under the age of 18 shall be allowed on the premises (including Ironwood Grill) without the accompaniment of a parent or guardian. Those violating this policy will be removed without refund. Members’ children are welcome to attend provided that they behave in accordance with the terms and conditions of membership, including but not limited to our “Common Courtesy Code of Conduct."

Citing concerns about age discrimination, Michigan's ACLU sent a letter today urging Emagine CEO Paul Glantz to revoke the policy. 

“Discrimination against teens based on blanket stereotypes is not only wrong, it is illegal,” says deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan Dan Korobkin in a release. “They should be able to watch a film without being targeted because of their age or banned because their families may not be able to afford a pricey annual membership.”

According to the ACLU, age discrimination is a violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act. And while the ACLU acknowledges that unruly kids should be allowed to get the boot, they say it is a crime to treat all minors the same way. “What is unlawful under our state’s civil rights law is discriminating against an entire group based upon the bad acts, or anticipated bad acts, of a few,” the letter reads.

Furthermore, the ACLU says that the theater's platinum membership policy smacks of segregation.

“This sends the message — perhaps unintentional but quite unfortunate — that teenagers from wealthy families can be trusted on your premises, whereas youth from less affluent backgrounds cannot,” the letter says. “As you are probably aware, the wealthier suburbs of Detroit (including Birmingham) have a long history of being perceived as unwelcoming to residents of Detroit and its less affluent suburbs, with racial segregation playing a large part of that history."

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