A group of America’s biggest movie theater chains has filed suit against the state of New Jersey over forced closures due to coronavirus. AMC, Cinemark, and Regal are among the companies arguing in court that the restrictions violate their freedom of speech.
THR reports that the theaters claim the state government is using “unconstitutional and unlawful distinctions” by allowing some public spaces to open but not others. In particular, the complaint from the National Association of Theatre Owners of New Jersey says that Stage 2 of the state reopening plan includes retail stores and shopping malls, but not movie theaters. It also notes that the state has allowed places of worship to reopen. It says that the distinction between these spaces is “arbitrary and irrational.”
“By this Complaint, Plaintiffs challenge Defendants’ unconstitutional and unlawful distinctions in allowing certain places of public assembly to reopen, while requiring movie theatres to remain closed,” the complaint states. “COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk, and Plaintiffs support fair and reasonable actions by the government to address that risk. However, the government-mandated total closure of movie theatres is neither fair nor reasonable, and is instead a violation of Plaintiffs’ First Amendment rights of freedom of speech and freedom of expression, Equal Protection of the laws, Due Process under the law, and is a Taking of property without just compensation.”
The association is being represented by Davis Wright Tremaine. The suit is requesting an order that will disallow the state of New Jersey from treating movie theaters differently from similar businesses.
Many movie theaters across the country remain closed due to coronavirus, as cases in some states surge. Film studios have delayed many of their planned releases, leading to delayed reopenings.