The Alamo Drafthouse Cinema had what they thought was a good idea. They decided to hold a screening of Wonder Woman just for the ladies. After all, it’s a female empowerment movie, right?
Whether they expected the backlash they got for discriminating against men is uncertain. However, they got it.
Now, the theater company is admitting they screwed up legally with their discriminatory promotion.
Promoting female-only “Wonder Woman” screenings was a violation of Austin’s equality laws, the Alamo Drafthouse acknowledged in a letter to the city last month.
To settle the anti-discrimination complaints, the Drafthouse has offered to send each of the men who filed a complaint a DVD of the film.
The Drafthouse quickly sold out two June 6 screenings at its downtown Austin Ritz theater that it called “women-only,” noting: “we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’… And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it.”
In a settlement offer July 18, Missy Reynolds, director of real estate and development for the Drafthouse, called that decree a “tongue in cheek moniker” and said the theater wouldn’t actually have denied men admission if any had purchased tickets. She emphasized the Drafthouse’s tradition of “immersive movie-going experiences,” citing for example its “Jaws on the Water” showings of the famous shark movies at Volente Beach.
However, when you advertise it as “No Guys Allowed” and argue that by saying it’s only for those who identify as women, followed by “we mean it,” any guy can be excused for not taking it as tongue in cheek. In fact, I’m skeptical of the claim it was meant that way. After all, Alamo Drafthouse had plenty of time to make that claim before the showing, but they didn’t.
Now they’re trying to play nice because they got busted.
Of the two men to file complaints with the city of Austin, one said he would be satisfied with a change in the discrimination policies and a public apology on Facebook, while the other wants almost $9,000 in damages. That’s just about three times what the theater made on the showing from ticket sales and concessions.
The theater chain has countered by offering to change its policies by using this incident as something of a case study, distributing letters to staff explaining the men’s point of view and offering a free Wonder Woman DVD.
Now, the first two sound like sincere gestures. The last though? Maybe it’s just me, but it almost feels like a smack in the face. “Oh, here’s that movie we didn’t want to let you see now that you’ve slapped us in the face with the fact that we broke the law.” But, again, that may be just me.
Either way, it’s nice to see Alamo isn’t getting a pass on this.