A mom launched a firey complaint after being thrown out of a theater because of her special needs son. She garnered tremendous support, saying her little boy did nothing wrong, but the cinema has fired back with an unapologetic response.
Jennifer Daly, a proud mother-of-two from a Chicago suburb, thought a family-friendly movie would be a nice break for her and her sons. It was anything but, however, when she and her children were asked to leave the theater after an incident involving her youngest son, who has special needs.
Three-year-old Jonathan has a rare form of dwarfism and cervical spine issues, according to CBS 2 Local, but the mom still wants him to enjoy the things other children do. That includes going to the cinema. So, she headed out to the Lake in the Hills AMC with her boys on a Friday evening to catch a kids’ movie that her older son had been asking to see for weeks.
According to the mom, Jonathan was enjoying the show. “He thought it was hilarious. Certain things just make him kind of giggle, and he thought it was funny. It was cute,” Jennifer recalled. Unfortunately for the mom and her boys, those around them weren’t as enamored with the noise Jonathan was making.
Jennifer was approached by a manager who received a complaint about a baby crying, but the mom is adamant that the presumed wails were Jonathan’s sounds of joy. “He was laughing,” she said, but it didn’t matter. According to Jennifer, she and her children were asked to leave without warning, making her angrier than she’s ever been.
After the ordeal, Jennifer poured out her heart on social media. “It is a huge feat for me to be able to accomplish this task. It is not easy with Jonathan’s oxygen and feeding bag and just carrying him to be able to go and do this,” she wrote. “At one point during the movie, Jonathan yelled out in his giggle twice not more than 20 seconds each and giggled,” she furthered, saying it happened during an amusing part of the film.
Then, the staff approached to address the noise complaint. “I looked at her and said he did not cry, he giggled twice. I was told I immediately had to pack up to leave,” recalled a mortified Jennifer, who said the incident caused her to cry harder than she had in a long time. “Never in my life have I ever been kicked out of anything especially if I had done nothing wrong.”
Feeling they were “discriminated against,” Jennifer listed the options she was offered after becoming upset, saying they were all impossible for various reasons. Her firey post garnered a lot of empathy as people were moved by her words. It resulted in an outpouring of support for the mom and condemnation of the theater, including negative reviews from social media users, standing in solidarity with Jennifer and Johnathan. This caught the attention of the theater’s parent company, which decided to fire back a response that’s changing some minds.
“Disruptive behavior is not permitted during a movie. An AMC manager received multiple reports from guests about an ongoing disruption,” an AMC representative said, adding that the manager approached her only after observing the issue. “The manager offered several options, including relocating the family and offering a private show. The guest received a refund, but declined all other options offered,” AMC added, including a screening during a “sensory friendly” movie program, which waives the normal rules on disruptive behavior.
AMC is more than willing to welcome Jennifer Daly and her boys back to finish the film, but the mom wants no parts of it. “I don’t ever want to step foot in their theater again,” she said. “Because it was not good.” But, was it as bad as she claims? Even by Jennifer’s own admission, the movie theater offered for her to move to another seat, pick another time to see the movie, or try to see another showing that same evening.
Jennifer also admitted that they offered her free popcorn and drink refills in addition to giving her a toy for Johnathan, a full refund of all the money she spent, and free movie vouchers with the name, phone number, and email of the manager who was more than willing to help her see the movie “when it will work better.” It seems they were trying to make everyone happy, but it was an impossible task.
Yes, parents with special needs children should feel welcomed in all environments. But, where is the line drawn when it comes to accommodating families with unique challenges? If Johnathan only laughed briefly, it was wrong to throw them out. However, if he was an ongoing disruption like many patrons claimed, the real discrimination would be only enforcing the rules for certain people and giving others a free pass.
If those with special needs are excluded from the rules, those with behavioral conditions that result in loud outbursts or make it hard for them to sit still and be quiet would also have to be excused. When the rules are bent for one, you’re eventually forced to deviate from them for others too. Soon, it’s like having no rules at all. That doesn’t sound like an enjoyable movie experience for paying customers. So, what’s the right answer? We’ll let you decide.