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Proposed Obama Regulations Could Shutter Small Town South Dakota Movie Theaters

FILE: CLosed Movie Theatre
Clipart

A new set of regulations being proposed for movie theater owners by the Obama administration may sound a death knell for many small town movie theaters in South Dakota:

The Obama administration is nearing completion of a proposal to require that movie theaters offer technology so blind and deaf people can go to the cinema.

The draft rule, which is part of a decades-long effort by advocates for people with disabilities, would likely require thousands of movie theaters across the country to offer devices that display closed captioning and provide audio narration of what’s happening onscreen.

Disability associations say that the new regulation will make sure that blind and deaf people can appreciate the latest blockbuster just like everyone else.

But theater owners worry that a federal mandate will force small, rural and struggling theaters to close given the costs associated with the rule.

“These theaters can barely stay in existence and often need community support to break even,” the trade group wrote in a comment to the Justice Department’s 2010 precursor to the upcoming proposal. “To require them to install expensive closed captioning technology at this time is an undue financial burden that may result in these theaters closing.”

The upcoming proposal from the Justice Department is expected to require that a certain percentage of the more than 40,000 movie screens across the country offer headsets that provide a running commentary of visual action for the blind, glasses that display closed captioning for the deaf or other devices to explain what’s happening onscreen.

Read it all here.

As the parent of a child with disabilities, I can appreciate when businesses make accommodations for those with disabilities. In fact, I may choose to go there because of it.

But at what point do reasonable requirements for accommodations become prohibitive?
Because make no mistake, many rural movie theaters are hanging on by a thread. Recent requirements by movie studios to go to a digital distribution format will already be forcing a portion of them out of business. And coming as the second blow in a one-two punch, for the federal government to require even more equipment to be purchased could result in even more of them being shuttered.

But should businesses be forced to go out of business when they can’t afford modifications to accommodate?

Should we shut down most theaters in rural communities, and make them the sole providence of communities of 10,000 or more who have the revenues to afford such equipment?

No easy answers here. What do you think?

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Pat Powers and do not reflect Results Radio, Townsquare Media, its sponsors or subsidiaries.

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