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Box office flop! Court St cinema searched only ladies’ bags

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The United Artists Court Street Cinema discriminated against its own customers when it started searching only women’s pocketbooks, not men’s bags, at the Brooklyn Heights multiplex this summer, some moviegoers charge.

The “women only” security policy has since been scrapped — thanks to intervention from a local councilman after complaints from the distaff side of the film-going community.

“I found it rather offensive and discrimina­tory,” said Mary Goodman, a Brooklyn Heights resident, who saw “Ponyo” on Aug. 15 with her daughter and admits freely that she sneaked yogurt into the screening, despite the usher rummaging through her bag.

Goodman said that she thought it was against theater policy to bring in outside food and drink, and complained that management did not equally enforce its policy towards men and women.

The ladies’-only search lasted for about a week and reverted to a gender-neutral prosecution after Councilmember David Yassky (D–Brooklyn Heights) called Regal Entertainment Group, the national theater company that owns the silver screens.

“It turns out that this was an isolated mistake,” said Tim Roberts, the lawmaker’s chief of staff. “They were supposed to be searching large bags. Any discrimination would be completely unacceptab­le.”

Regal’s regional manager did not return calls for comment. But a spokesman for the company, based in Knoxville, Tenn., was unaware of the local issue hundreds of miles away from the headquarters. He did say that searches had become more routine since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

“The staff has been reminded of our policy, which is to visually check bags — they don’t handle items in bags,” said the spokesman, Russ Nunley. “The purpose is for security,” he said, citing what some believe are post-9-11 realities. In fact, Nunley said that the theater does not ban customers from bringing their own food because viewers must carry everything with them, unlike suburban locations where patrons can leave snacks in their cars. “Our employees are instructed to discuss food items only when they see inappropriate items, such as alcohol or food that is noisy or smelly,” Nunley said. “Within an urban environment, going back to your own property may be quite a hike.”

Though the women-only search policy is apparently a thing of the past, it’s still the talk of Internet gripe sites like Yelp.

“Whatever [the reason for the search], it was annoying. This is not a club. It’s the movies,” wrote “Sharon K.” on Aug. 19.

“Jed L.” said that he and his friends had to dispose of their leftovers from dinner in order to satisfy the guards on Aug. 22.

“I’ve never been treated as rudely as I was at this theater. … Even when we threw away the food, they weren’t happy and asked to check our bags again to see if anything else was at the bottom,” he wrote.

It’s been a rough summer at the theater and not because of dismal ticket sales.

Earlier this month, the entire moviehouse was evacuated when the popcorn maker caught fire and the building filled with smoke. Eight people suffered minor injuries from smoke inhalation.

Updated 5:14 pm, July 9, 2018
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Reasonable discourse

Jessica says:
So, is the spokesperson saying that we can bring food into the theater? Which is it? Of course, I don't bother with this theater anyway; they rarely show anything worth seeing.
Aug. 31, 2009, 9:15 am
Anywho says:
You can't even go to the movies anymore. What a joke. Boycott them
Aug. 31, 2009, 4:34 pm
freddy from slope says:
we all sneak in food. we all shouldn't.

i have little sympathy for those who get caught.
Sept. 1, 2009, 11 am
Chris from Boerum Hill says:
Sell a better variety of food and fewer people would feel the need to sneak food in. Yogurt is movie-friendly food, moreso than noisy-wrappered candy I'd say. Maybe some healthy sandwiches could be made available, too.

You see, movie theatres don't make money off the movies they screen - that money goes to the distributor. Theatres make money from the concessions.

So, why, in NYC, do we settle for so-so popcorn, soda, bad hot dogs/nachos and a scant selection of candy?

I think the theatre owners (exhibitors) can do better.

This theatre, in particular, is a bad place to see a movie. I'd much rather go to the Cobble Hill or the Pavillion ... hell even the Union Sq. - a nightmare on Earth if ever there was one - is a better venue. bad architecture, no character, lots of loud kids - escalator from hell.

Still, if they're revenue is based on food, you'd think they'd focus on doing that better, but no, they're too stupid to see it. Make it a place I'd want to hang out in before/after the movie and I think business would benefit. Exhibitors get lazy when they rely on the movies themselves to do all the work for them. Sad. Pathetic. Pitiful, even.
Sept. 1, 2009, 2:22 pm
bklyn20 from Brooklyn Heights says:
The bigger issue -- which the article doesn't touch upon, possibly for legal reasons, is that Regal searches women's bags in Brooklyn -- but not in Manhattan. Having been to many movies at the Union Square Regal, I know that they don't do bag searches there.

This past weekend (Sat. 8/29), I checked and saw that they are still doing bag searches, although they may have ben looking into men's bags as well -- it was hard to tell from outside the theater. If they search women's bags, then they should search men's bags, and possibly their coat pockets, etc. If terrorism is a concern, then why isn't Union Square, (something of a national landmark) more of a security concern than Court & Atlantic in Brooklyn? Clearly we have a new crime here -- MVWBR -- Movie Viewing While Brooklynite.
Sept. 1, 2009, 5:48 pm
Mary Goodman from Brooklyn Heights says:
To the Editors,

Thanks for carrying the story about my brush with the food police at the Regal Cinemas on Court Street. While I'm not actually a serial yogurt smugggler, I have taken in outside food from time to time, as have many I know. The bigger issue -- which the article doesn't touch upon, possibly for legal reasons -- is that Regal searches bags in Brooklyn but not in Manhattan. Having been to many movies at the Union Square Regal, I know that they don't do bag searches there. Perhps the Brooklyn theatre should spend more time on actual theft, as in people who pay for one movie and see two or three with no difficulty? And if the bag searches are a terrorism security measure, then isn't Union Square, (something of a national landmark) more of a terrorism target than Court & Atlantic in Brooklyn? The response from the Regal headquarters is nonsensical at best.

Clearly we have a NEW crime here, committed by RegalCinemas: MVWBR -- Movie Viewing While Brooklynite.

Thanks for publishing this, hopefully unedited,
Mary Goodman
Brooklyn Heights
Sept. 2, 2009, 5:07 pm

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