Theater chains suing New Jersey over ‘unconstitutional’ closures
The past few weeks have seen businesses across the country, namely movie theaters, struggle to reopen safely and get things back to normal and while the state of New Jersey is allowing some other businesses to reopen, cinemas aren’t one of them and now the major theater chains are suing the state, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
AMC, Cinemark and Regal are coming together in court to sue New Jersey with the claim that in allowing churches and other businesses to reopen but not movie theaters, they are committing constitutional injury to the theater chain industry.
“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,” states a complaint being led by the National Association of Theatre Owners of New Jersey. “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 lawsuit, which discusses how New Jersey has now entered Stage 2 without any timeline given for Stage 3 of which theaters are a part of, is being handled by First Amendment attorneys at Davis Wright Tremaine, a prominent law firm in the media industry.
Though the country is currently seeing a spike in cases of the coronavirus as people rush to get back to a sense of normality, the COVID Tracking Project shows that New Jersey has been faring better than most states. The complaint, which can be read here, also sees the industry asking for an order from New Jersey that treats movie houses the same as other businesses and that a declaration of Governor Philip Murphy’s actions as a “deprivation of just compensation” be issued.
“Defendants have a legal obligation to promulgate orders that treat like entities in a like manner, and not to create arbitrary or irrational distinctions, particularly where First Amendment rights are at stake,” states the complaint. ” Although Defendants have issued orders allowing other public assemblies such as religious services and ceremonies to open, they have withheld approval for movie theatres, which are similarly situated, if not less of a risk, from a public health perspective. Representatives of Plaintiffs met with representatives of Defendants, and the representatives of Plaintiffs shared detailed safety protocols that would be implemented for the reopening of movie theatres in the State that Plaintiffs are ready, willing, and able to implement.”
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