The Delaware Supreme Court overturned a decision by the state Human Relations Commission that the manager of a Dover cinema was racist when he used a “condescending tone” in telling a crowd of largely black patrons viewing a Tyler Perry movie to silence their cell phones and remain quiet.
The commission also ordered the Carmike 14 Theater to pay nearly $80,000 for violating the Delaware Equal Accommodations Law after it determined the October 2007 announcement–which was not regularly made in that way in other theaters–“insulted, humiliated and demeaned” patrons in that manager David Stewart had singled out a black audience at a “minority-themed” movie.
Court papers note that extra security also was brought in that night and guards were double-checking ticket stubs as audience members entered, which the plaintiffs said further added to the humiliation.
The warning about cell phones was shown on the screen and then was delivered in person in the largest of the three auditoriums by Stewart, according to court papers. Some patrons later said Stewart’s tone “was offensive and condescending, as if he were speaking to children.” And because the crowd, which had been well-behaved to that point, was “90 to 95 percent” black, some felt it was racist because it implied that blacks did not know how to behave in a movie theater.