NJ movie theaters sue state to be allowed to reopen
A group of movie theater chains, including AMC Entertainment, Regal Cinemas, Cinemark, Bow Tie Cinemas, BJK Entertainment, and Community Theaters, are suing NJ Governor Phil Murphy and health commissioner Judith Persichilli to be allowed to open. The suit, obtained by NPR, claims that agents of the state have been "unconstitutional and unlawful" in allowing businesses including retail stores and restaurants to open, but barring theaters from doing so.
"COVID-19 represents a serious public health risk," the suit reads, "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 suit continues that movie theaters were listed as businesses that would be allowed to reopen in Stage Three of the reopening process, and that while NJ entered Stage Two in mid-June, a date for the beginning of Stage Three has not been set. They also point to churches, places of worship, and indoor religious gatherings being allowed to commence as of late June, and libraries, museums and aquariums to open as of early July, with some restrictions. "The order uses the rubric 'recreational and entertainment businesses,' yet specifically requires movie theatres, performing arts centers, gyms and fitness centers, and indoor amusement and water parks to keep their indoor spaces closed," the suit reads.
Meanwhile, AMC previously came under fire when the chain announced that, upon reopening, customers wouldn't be required to wear face masks. "We did not want to be drawn into a political controversy"” CEO and president Adam Aron told Variety. "We thought it might be counterproductive if we forced mask wearing on those people who believe strongly that it is not necessary." They reversed course following public outcry. "It is clear from this response that we did not go far enough on the usage of masks," Aron said in a statement saying that mask usage would be required after all.
Organizers of two Ohio music festivals also cited their first amendment rights when they sued the state Department of Health director over enforcement of the band on concerts in the state.