LOS ANGELES, CA-A recent court decision that the AMC theater chain’s wheelchair seating at stadium-style theaters violates the Americans with Disabilities Act could require costly overhauls of theaters if the decision is upheld.

Real estate attorney Phillip Nichols of Pircher, Nichols & Meeks says the the judge for the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California ruled that movie theaters with wheelchair seating only in the front of an auditorium violate the ADA requirement of “comparable lines of sight” for theater patrons. The judge rejected AMC’s contention that it merely had to provide an unobstructed view.

Nichols says some theater owners previously thought that the ADA only required that wheelchairs be no closer than the fourth row. These owners installed three rows of non-stadium seating with the wheelchairs immediately behind them. Whether theater owners will be required to retrofit their facilities will depend on the outcome of an appeal of the case to the 9th Circuit, which covers nine western states.

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