Monthly Archives: February 2011

Is your theatre or production in danger of an ADA lawsuit?

If you produce or operate a venue that houses Movies, concerts, or performing arts works, like theatre, comedy or spoken word performances, you  may not be aware of the scope of  the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA), which  requires that you make reasonable accommodations for people with disabilities.

Sure, we've all  made entryways wider, installed ramps, and configured seating to allow for patrons in wheelchairs.  But what about those patrons with less obvious disabilities, such  as deafness and blindness?

Growing threat of lawsuits

Recently, a number of Disability Rights Advocates announced that they and their “public interest” attorneys would soon be turning their attention to “the theater industry”.   Their concern?  Closed Captioning for hearing impaired patrons.

Last November,  a disability rights group filed a class action against Cinemark theatres over this issue.    They claim that,  “Over two-thirds (2/3) of Americans attend movies each year. Yet without some form of captioning, countless seniors and those with hearing loss, cannot enjoy at trip to the movies because they are unable to hear or understand the dialogue.”  Their suit contends that by not providing  Closed Captions, Cinemark’s they are engaged in discriminatory practices that violate the Unruh Civil Rights Act (California Civil Code sections 51 and 52), which prohibits discrimination on the basis of disability, the Disabled Persons Act (California Civil Code section 54.3), and the Americans with Disabilities Act. Continue Reading

Will Spiderman’s bad reviews matter, or has the superhero already caught audiences in his web?

Earlier this week, the New York Theatre Critics broke with long standing tradition and reviewed a show while it is still in Previews.  The mostly bad reviews of “Spiderman: Turn Off The Dark” came out the day after one of the oft-rescheduled opening dates.  Clearly the critics have had enough, figuring (I think correctly), that when a show is running for week upon week, selling out the so-called “preview” performances at full ticket prices averaging over $100, the show is as good as open, and should be reviewed as a service to the public.

Historically, when shows have opened to bad reviews, they've frequently closed quickly, especially where  advance ticket sales  have suffered as a result.  But here, Spiderman has strong advance ticket sales, which begs the question:  “Do reviews matter anymore?”

Personally, I think that hype and advertising will keep Spiderman going for a good long while. Besides, I'm still not convinced that Spiderman is ever really expected to recoup its record-setting $65 Million capitalization. (As I've previously written, I think the Broadway show may be as much about brand maintenance for the comic-book and movie properties, as about profit)

What do you think? Will ticket sales now plunge like an improperly tethered actor falling to catastrophic injury? Post your opinions in the comments on the website.

P.S.  My favorite line from Benjamin Brantley's review is:  “How can $65 Million look so cheap?”

Asked and Answered: Can I use a famous movie line in my new screenplay?

Q:  I have watched hundreds of films and read as many screenplays.  The question I have is, are lines from movies protected by copywrite or are they considered in the public domain? The best example I have is whenever a character or story transports a character to somewhere foreign or bizarre the standard line is “We're not in Kansas anywhere” or some similar derivation. Likewise,  is there some law that says I can't use “Go ahead, make my day” in a screenplay that I write?

A:  Lines from movies are, in most cases, neither protected by copyright nor in the public domain.     Although technically, a line from a movie could be protected by copyright,  it's rare that it actually happens.    You see, in order to be protected by copyright, a work needs to be original. To be sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection, a line would have to be fairly lengthy, and involve a bit more than ordinary construction.  In fact, lines spoken by characters in films need to sound “real”, and real people don't speak in such carefully constructed phrases as to warrant copyright protection.

Harry Callahan, played by Clint Eastwood
Image via Wikipedia

The film itself is almost without a doubt protected by copyright, but a subsequent use of a single line found within a film is likely to be held a de minimus use, and therefore not an infringement.

There may be other issues with using “Go ahead, make my day”, if the phrase has become a trademark.  Even then, if you're mocking or parodying the original, or just being ironic in the way the phrase is used, you're unlikely to encounter trouble from the makers of the original.

But, as with all free advice you get on the internet, you get what you pay for.  When in doubt, talk to an entertainment lawyer.

This is intended as general information only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It is not a substitute for a private, independent consultation with an attorney selected to advise you after a full investigation of the facts and law relevant to your matter. We will not be responsible for readers’ detrimental reliance upon the information appearing in this feature.


Thinking of Producing it yourself? subscribe to my FREE e-course “6 ways to Finance A Feature Film” by visiting https://firemark.com/minicourse

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