In dustup over ‘Wonder Woman’ screenings, Alamo offers men free DVDs


Promoting female-only “Wonder Woman” screenings was a violation of Austin’s equality laws, the Alamo Drafthouse acknowledged in a letter to the city last month.

To settle the anti-discrimination complaints, the Drafthouse has offered to send each of the men who filed a complaint a DVD of the film.

The city processed two formal complaints against the theater for the two female-only screenings in June, one from Albany, N.Y., law professor Stephen Clark and the other from an unidentified man, claiming sex discrimination. City equality laws ban a public accommodation such as a movie theater from limiting its service, or indicating through advertising that it will limit it, based on race, sex, sexual orientation or other factors.

THE BACK STORY: Austin fielding complaints over women-only ‘Wonder Woman’ screening

The Drafthouse quickly sold out two June 6 screenings at its downtown Austin Ritz theater that it called “women-only,” noting: “we’re embracing our girl power and saying ‘No Guys Allowed’… And when we say ‘People Who Identify As Women Only,’ we mean it.”

In a settlement offer July 18, Missy Reynolds, director of real estate and development for the Drafthouse, called that decree a “tongue in cheek moniker” and said the theater wouldn’t actually have denied men admission if any had purchased tickets. She emphasized the Drafthouse’s tradition of “immersive movie-going experiences,” citing for example its “Jaws on the Water” showings of the famous shark movies at Volente Beach.

But the theater admitted it made two mistakes: underestimating the hubbub the screenings would create and advertising them as women-only.

“Respondent did not realize that advertising a ‘women’s-only’ screening was a violation of discrimination laws,” the movie theater’s offer to the city says. “Respondent has a very strict non-discrimination policy in place, but this policy did NOT include a specific prohibition against advertising.”

RELATED: Women-only showings of ‘Wonder Woman’ receive cheers — and a few gripes

The screenings received nationwide attention. They drew celebration and praise from many feminists, a snarky open letter from Mayor Steve Adler to one critic and backlash from others. Instead of backing off, the Drafthouse courted the controversy with cheeky responses to online critics and the addition of women-only screenings in other cities.

City records indicate one of the men with a complaint pending offered to settle in exchange for the theater changing its discrimination policies and publicly apologizing on Facebook. The other complainant asked the Drafthouse to pay him $8,892 — roughly three times the estimated value of tickets and concessions for the women-only screenings.

The Drafthouse responded to both with the counteroffer saying it would update its company discrimination policies using “Wonder Woman” as a case study, share letters describing the men’s points of view with employees and send each man a “Wonder Woman” DVD.

An agreement has not yet been reached and negotiations are ongoing, said Gail McCant, Austin’s equal employment and fair housing administrator. The Drafthouse would not answer questions about the screenings or its settlement offer.

The back-and-forth is part of an informal settlement effort allowed under the city code. If no agreement is reached, the city will investigate the complaints, determine whether the code was violated and, if so, refer the matter to city attorneys for possible prosecution.

It’s up to the complainants, not the city, to decide whether to accept any settlement agreements instead of pressing forward with a full investigation.

“We make no decisions,” McCant said. “The respondents and the charging parties can respond; they can accept; they can reject.”

At least eight people filled out complaint forms against the “Wonder Woman” screenings with Austin’s Equal Employment and Fair Housing Office, city officials said. But only two followed that up with the formal notarized version required for the complaint to be considered.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

San Marcos considers supporting challenge to ‘sanctuary cities’ law
San Marcos considers supporting challenge to ‘sanctuary cities’ law

The San Marcos City Council will consider writing an amicus brief in opposition to Senate Bill 4, the ban on so-called sanctuary cities, during a special meeting called for Tuesday morning. The meeting, called for 8 a.m. Tuesday in council chambers at 630 E. Hopkins, comes after the council last week voted not to join the cities of Austin...
With rejection of special session core agenda, is GOP civil war next?
With rejection of special session core agenda, is GOP civil war next?

The day before the summer special legislative session began, Gov. Greg Abbott warned lawmakers that he would be keeping an eagle eye on how each of them voted on his 20-item agenda. “I’m going to be establishing a list,” Abbott said. “Who is for this, who is against this, who has not taken a position yet. No one gets to hide...
Two Florida police officers fatally shot, suspect in custody
Two Florida police officers fatally shot, suspect in custody

Two Florida police officers were fatally shot while checking out a report of a suspicious person Friday night, Kissimmee police Chief Jeff O’Dell said. Kissimmee police Officer Matthew Baxter and Sgt. Sam Howard were shot in a scuffle at about 9:30 p.m. at Palmway and East Cypress streets near East Irlo Bronson Memorial Highway and North Main...
After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look
After Charlottesville, Austin’s Confederate monuments get a second look

After a rally by white supremacists fighting removal of a Confederate monument turned deadly in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend, the response in Austin came swiftly. Austin City Council members immediately began paperwork to rename Robert E. Lee Road, near Zilker Park, and Jeff Davis Avenue, near Allandale. At the Capitol, state Rep. Eric Johnson...
‘Free Speech’ rally in Boston draws large crowd of counter-protesters
‘Free Speech’ rally in Boston draws large crowd of counter-protesters

A “free speech” rally in Boston Saturday afternoon drew a large crowd of counter-protesters. An estimated 15,000 counter-protesters marched through the city to Boston Common, where rally attendees gathered to deliver a series of speeches.  The rally ended abruptly, and attendees were escorted by police from the rally area. Tense clashes...
More Stories