DETROIT—Citing concerns about both age discrimination and the stereotyping of teens, the ACLU of Michigan in a letter today urged the owner of the newly renovated Emagine Palladium theater in Birmingham to repeal a policy that prohibits minors unless they are accompanied by an adult or have a $350 “platinum membership” being offered by the theater.
“Discrimination against teens based on blanket stereotypes is not only wrong, it is illegal,” said Dan Korobkin, deputy legal director for the ACLU of Michigan. “They should be able to watch a film without being targeted because of their age or banned because their families may not be able to afford a pricey annual membership.”
The organization sent the letter to Emagine CEO Paul Glantz after Glantz, claiming a handful of patrons had been disruptive recently, announced the ban earlier this month. The letter points out that age discrimination is a violation of Michigan’s Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act.
“To be clear, there is nothing wrong with any business ejecting individual customers, regardless of age, who are actually disruptive or otherwise engaged in inappropriate conduct,” the letter reads. “What is unlawful under our state’s civil rights law is discriminating against an entire group based upon the bad acts, or anticipated bad acts, of a few.”
Recalling metro Detroit’s long and ignominious history of segregation, the letter notes that the theater’s policy is particularly troubling because it bans only those teens whose families have not purchased pricey “platinum membership,” while it allows teens whose families are members.
“This sends the message—perhaps unintentional but quite unfortunate—that teenagers from wealthy families can be trusted on your premises, whereas youth from less affluent backgrounds cannot,” the letter says. “As you are probably aware, the wealthier suburbs of Detroit (including Birmingham) have a long history of being perceived as unwelcoming to residents of Detroit and its less affluent suburbs, with racial segregation playing a large part of that history.
“Even if the purpose behind your policy is entirely unrelated to these issues, we think it is important for the business community to send a message that all customers are welcome.”
The theater, known previously as the Palladium 12 because of its 12 screens, re-opened to the public on Oct. 12 as the Emagine Palladium. It features reclining theater seats, a casual-fare restaurant and a bar.