A group of Black women are speaking out after they say staffers at a New Orleans-area movie theater discriminated against them and later accused the bunch of using fake tickets to see the new film, “Harriet.”
Though ticket mixups are common, the ladies said they feel the incident was racially motivated.
Sandra Gordon, 65, was among the group of 13 women who gathered at the AMC Clearview Palace 12 in Metairie last Sunday to see the acclaimed new film about abolitionist and trailblazer Harriet Tubman. The ladies are all members of the 504 Queens, an African-American women’s empowerment group that mentors young women and youth, NOLA.com reported.
What was supposed to be a fun night at the movies was suddenly soured, however, by a theater employee who questioned if their tickets were real and accused the group of acting rude and belligerently. Their alleged antics were so egregious that an employee stopped the movie mid-screening.
Gordon said the incident left her and her friends feeling utterly embarrassed.
“I saw how people were looking at us,” she told the outlet, adding, “It was humiliating. Especially with the movie being shown.”
“We were watching people being whipped, being shot in the head, their children being sold away from them,” Gordon recalled. “Then you shut down this movie, this emotional movie, and come to me about a ticket dispute? It felt like the 1800’s again in 2019.”
Their trouble began not long after the 6:20 p.m screening started. Gordon and her friends were sitting in their assigned seats when they noticed a group of movie-goers enter the theater and make their way toward Row E, where the 504 Queens were seated. Seeing the seats were already occupied, the group walked out and left.
Moments later, Gordon said she was confronted by an employee.
“I want to see your ticket,” the worker said. “You’re in the wrong seat.”
Gordon pulled up the ticket on her phone, which confirmed she was indeed in the correct seat. The employee walked off.
Gordon thought the matter was resolved until a kitchen manager left her post and abruptly stopped the film. The screen went black and the lights came up.
“Everybody said, ‘Oh, man, what happened?’” Cynthia Armstrong, another member of 504 Queens, recalled. “And then they turned around and looked right at us.”
The manager then reportedly confronted Gordon over the mix-up, yelling and accusing the 56-year-old of being unkind to the worker who had come to check her ticket earlier.
“I heard you had a conflict with my employee,” she said, according to Gordon.
Gordon criticized the manager’s aggressive behavior, saying it had a “racist tinge” to it. Still, she denied being rude and was backed up by folks sitting nearby who confirmed she had been polite to the employee.
Fellow movie-goer Brandon Mayo, who was seated a few rows back, said he couldn’t believe what he was seeing.
“I was shocked. She was all in that woman’s [Gordon’s] face,” Mayo, 32, said of the manager. “And the woman was an elderly woman.”
However, he said some people were more upset the film they paid good money to see had been interrupted.
“Some people yelled, ‘Take her out of here.’ As if she’d done something to make them cut the movie off,” Mayo recalled. “I’m sure it was embarrassing.”
Gordon decried the situation, saying the manager’s behavior left her to suspect that she and her friends had been profiled.
“I just wonder: If I was a white lady, would all of this have occurred?” she told NOLA.com.
The movie eventually came back on, but Gordon was confronted by a third employee who again confirmed she was in the right seat. After the film was done, she, the 504 Queens and several other customers lined up in the lobby to complain about the treatment Gordon had received. Another theater manager hoped to remedy the situation by promising full refunds to those who stayed behind.
However, the women said no one ever apologized.
After an investigation by AMC Theatres’ corporate office, the movie chain confirmed “operational mistakes by the theater team” were to blame for the tense confrontation.
In a statement, AMC spokesman Ryan Noonan said “based on our initial investigation, operational mistakes by the theater team led to this unacceptable and unnecessary disruption, and we are working with the theater to address what occurred.
“We sincerely apologize to our guests in the theater for this disruption and for the frustration they experienced as a result of it,” he added.