AMC fires (then rehires) veteran ticket-taker with tattoos

posted by Patrick Crowley on May 23, 2006 at 6:01 am

BRIDGEWATER, NJ — The Asbury Park Press has published a story about an 80 year old veteran who was fired from his ticketing taking position at the AMC Bridgewater Commons, then rehired when a public outcry errupted:

To William C. Smith, the faded tattoo on each of his forearms are reminders of his World War II service. To AMC Movie Theatres, they were grounds for his termination.

Smith, 80, said two AMC theater managers at Bridgewater Commons mall met with him on April 14 and said they had to fire him because of the tattoos he has had since he was a 17-year-old Marine.

Smith, a ticket taker at the mall’s movie theater for the past 15 years, then contacted Somerville attorney David W. Trombadore, who then called the Courier News. On Tuesday, AMC Theatres offered Smith his job back, along with back pay.

Theaters in this post

Comments (30)

pbubny on May 23, 2006 at 12:18 pm

Didn’t management (whether at the theatre or regional level) have anything else to worry about besides an 80-year-old former Marine’s tattoos?

moviebuff82 on May 23, 2006 at 3:47 pm

Sounds like a weird story, Paul. Thank God he’s back at work at a nice theatre. The audience listened, then responded, and now he’s back at work (reference to THX since that theatre has one auditorium with THX sound).

moviebuff82 on May 23, 2006 at 3:50 pm

Sounds like a weird story, Paul. Thank God he’s back at work at a nice theatre. The audience listened, then responded, and now he’s back at work (reference to THX since that theatre has one auditorium with THX sound).

Alto on May 23, 2006 at 4:24 pm

How ridiculous. Maybe they should have hired a high-school kid with spiked hair and ear, nose, eyebrow, tongue, and lip piercings instead (after all, that’s an attractive look, and one I’ve actually seen on a theatre employee) – everything but nose rings and plates in their lips.

I do realize that corporate appearance/dress codes exist, and they are enforced for certain reasons (examples: wearing revealing clothing or items that make political statements), but this was just plain frivolity on AMC’s part (not to mention a major PR mistake – firing a senior citizen AND war veteran?) What in the hell were they thinking?

jon6444 on May 23, 2006 at 4:38 pm

I wonder if these managers that fired this nice gentlemen have any concept of what Mr. Smith or any WW II veteran has done for this country? Sad indeed…..well I am glad he is back on the job and AMC had to eat some humble pie.

RobertR on May 23, 2006 at 5:00 pm

This story makes me so sick I can’t stand it. How wonderful a WW2 vet is still well enough to work, can you imagine the indignity this poor man felt being fired? For shame AMC !!!!!!!!!!!!

William on May 23, 2006 at 5:05 pm

Yes, there are corporate appearance/dress codes with many of the theatre chains. It’s a blanket rule that has to go for all employees that work for the theatre. Many theatres have the employees sign paperwork that they know the rules of the job. The problem is the the companies have gotten too corporate with their PC type rules. The rules applies mainly to those high school kids. The only time the problem that Mr. Smith got in, would be if someone from the the corporate level came to his theatre. I’ve had to work around this with other staff members when I managed theatres.

John Fink
John Fink on May 23, 2006 at 6:16 pm

If he’s been there for 15 years he was hired by General Cinema, who didn’t have a problem with him. Why fire him all the sudden, AMC? AMC themselves aren’t so great, they often don’t hire the best people – if he had been with the theater for 15 years he probably was a quality employee. Another stupid move from the company that thought the solidly proforming The Aristocrats would have little box office potental, even in major urban markets.

stevemcgarrett on May 23, 2006 at 10:58 pm

I am glad Mr. Smith got a positive outcome over this questionable incident. The guy is in his 80’s and when he got his tattoos then the markings and styles are goin to be waaaay waaaaay different versus the young'uns have on their skins now. It’s a shame that the folks over at that AMC Theater did not weigh the pros and cons before making a stupid move that in the end make themselves look like the fools. Depending on workers w/ tattoos it depends if their markings is not goin to offend anyone. Also, a workers performance IMO should be ranked #1 over Tattoo Markings.

moviebuff82 on May 24, 2006 at 12:27 am

Maybe Regal Cinema should hire him instead, they’re a good theatre company.

John Fink
John Fink on May 24, 2006 at 2:17 am

Regal is by no means a good theater company – they have made extremly stupid decissions in their rather short (they were founded in the late 80’s, they aren’t as old as AMC and National Amusements) history.

Hermie on May 24, 2006 at 7:14 am

Stupid, stupid, stupid!

Blind adherance to ‘company policy’ will kill a business. I’m surprised the managers didn’t stick up for their employee, and remind the corporate honchos about this gentleman’s many years of service and the good will that he maintained with theatre patrons.

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on May 24, 2006 at 9:20 am

AMC. Regal. Cinemark. They’re all stupid theatre chains! Thank God for Arclight!

Chris Utley
Chris Utley on May 24, 2006 at 9:22 am

And they’re making him COVER UP the tattoos? Utterly ridiculous!

moviebuff82 on May 24, 2006 at 10:24 am

Another stupid theatre chain is clearview, although they manage the ziegfeld theatre very well. THey should hire the tattooed guy!!!

CTCrouch on May 24, 2006 at 1:28 pm

I’m sure there is more behind the story. If it wasn’t brought on by a corporate visit or audit, perhaps it was an issue that came up through another employee/potential employee (ie. someone else was let go or not hired, due to a tattoo, and a parity issue was raised). Then again, the tattoo might have been used as an excuse (ie. there might have been another issue and the tattoo policy provided a seemingly easy way out). In any case, it was obviously handled poorly, but I suspect there was more involved than just cracking down on some old man.

moviebuff82 on May 24, 2006 at 2:20 pm

you’re right on that, ctcrouch.

ggates on May 25, 2006 at 2:43 am

It’s not an unusual situation. In 1998, General Cinema, decided to go with a youth movement and sent requests for retirement to well over 100 long time employees who had hit the age of 50 and up. Of course, nearly everyone felt insulted, hurt and more, and took them up on their offer. I believe the same executive who was new to GCC at the time, and made the decision now works for AMC. He hasn’t changed, has he?

texasmovieman10 on May 25, 2006 at 8:00 am

Wow, what a great statement, the 3 major theater chains are stupid. Other than leading the way in struggling with the crap movie hollywood puts out, dealing with the most attendance than any other chain, and finding new ways to improve the movie going experience I would say the top 3 are stupid as well. I thought this was an site to talk about cinema treasures, not have baseless attacks on the most successful exhibitors. Just because they all have policies and rules that make each experience unique, doesn’t mean they are all bad. If you say they are stupid, tell us why?

ggates on May 25, 2006 at 8:06 am

I think my example, while not saying they were stupid, shows you one reason why insiders understand the underlying problems. Your message suggests lack of experience in that context.

John Fink
John Fink on May 25, 2006 at 9:46 am

Sure. I’ll tell you why Regal is stupid as I mentioned above: they made a bunch of bad business decissions which have forced them into cheapening the movie going experience by having to think outside the box and capatalize on the captive audience. Every wall it seems is for sale at Regal as flat pannel displays in the loby promote everything. The reason, I suspect is that they have to make up for major opperating losses, they were not the wisest of theater chains as we all know, often building large multiplexes and megaplexes some few miles apart from eachother, often in poor areas. They expected growth and didn’t find it. They were the hardest hit during the multiplex crash in 2000 because they opened more theaters than anyone else. This was stupid.

And as we all know in the case of Regal many of their sites are currently abandoned or are being run by other companies as discount houses. North Bergen, NJ is an example of how stupid Regal actually is. I don’t say this because I have a vendetta against Regal they just made the same mistake twice in a town that couldn’t suport two multiplexes in an area that wasn’t underserved. As a result they no longer opperate in North Bergen.

Addressing the question of this post AMC seems to have a policy that forbids employees from this sort of self expression, thats fine but its stupid for them to fire someone who has faithfully worked for the cinema for 15 years on the basis of his tatoos. It screams of age discrimination but there may have been another reason that we don’t know. I wish we knew the real story.

Furhtermore not all chains are bad. The best in the country is National Amusements (you don’t have them in Texas) – they often get the framing spot on, quickly address any problems and opperate extremly clean theaters with top quality snacks. AMC is okay, but they’re theaters in my experience can get a bit dirty, they have a little work to do on bathroom and theater cleanlyness (and even more work on the Loews side since Onex ran their fleet into the ground). Cinemark I’ve only visited a few times, they seemed pretty decent.

bigred on May 29, 2006 at 3:14 pm

I see there are some good comments but one thing I should point out is that how long a company has been in business has nothing to do with if they are a good or bad company.

I worked in the business for a number of years and do agree agree that there are some poor companies. I would say the worst bgger companies are probably Kerasotes and Cinemark. Kerasotes quality is poor at best. They don’t care about the employees or customers. I worked at one that the district manager gave orders not to clean the concession stand because he didn’t want to spend the hours and it didn’t get cleaned for over a month until board of health stepped in. I also went to a theater of theirs on first show and the floors were still so dirty that I about got stuck to them. Cinemark is well known for burning holes in the films because they don’t provide proper training.

I don’t know muck about Regal because they were’t in the areas I worked but are now in most of them. I do now that they have a habit of trying to expand to fast and then they sell off a bunch of theaters and Cinemark is there to but a lot of them.

General Cinema was a good company until the end. They hired a couple guys from AMC and had to create a new position to do so. General Cinema and United Artist were the best for years. GC had union projectist until the guys from AMC came over then the managers had to start running the booth at smaller theaters. The more things changed the more it was because that’s how they do it at AMC for a reason. United Artist didn’t have union projectionist but they could at least get the movie on the screen unlike some companies.

The stupid thing General Cinema did was hire the guys from AMC because all they did was destroy the company and now one of them is vp of AMC. They should have also fixed up older theaters and not let them run down.

carolgrau on June 1, 2006 at 5:56 am

you are right GC, & UA, were very good in thier day. I was a union projectionist for both of them, and since I was in the business a long time they would listen to me. Unlike Later years when you had to just not say anything, because you were a UNION projectionist, and in thier eyes you knew nothing. Even though I was already in the business since birth. Only thier stupid 18 & 19 year old managers really had a clue, so they thoughtyou on the other hand knew nothing. Had this poor 80 year old been an illegal alien, he would have had no problem at all, but he has a problem, he is American, an enemy of the corperate world.

James Colburn
James Colburn on June 16, 2006 at 2:46 am

How about getting rid of the punk who works at AMC in Humble Texas. The one who is slow and has a bad attitude! The guy who took 45 mins to wait on 5 people. Getting one item at a time…
No lets worry about stuff that doesnt matter. Wake up!

moviechic on January 2, 2007 at 12:54 pm

I believe this movie theatre is on it’s way out anyway. Since it has local competiton in nearby Manville and Hillsborough, it ought to move on. I dislike this theatre very much. I am sure the guy would gladly be hired by on of the other places. I think Bridgewater Commons Theatre is being moved out of the way for a furniture store.

moviebuff82 on January 2, 2007 at 1:02 pm

That theater has bad seats but good sound. If it closes, the only AMC theaters that will have THX are those that have stadium seating (excluding Rockaway 16): Clifton Commons and Essex Green.

John Fink
John Fink on January 2, 2007 at 1:19 pm

But who cares, THX is a scam anyway.

I’ve been hearing for years this theater was going to close, it used to be something, back in the 90’s – but now its out of date. AMC should consider building a new megaplex at Bridgewater Commons, I’m sure the mall attracts enough crowds to sustain a brand new construction, the mall itself I imagine is still pretty nice (I haven’t been there in a few years) and attracts an affluent crowd in one of the fastest growing areas in the country.

moviebuff82 on January 2, 2007 at 1:35 pm

If AMC indeed builds a new theater, it will resemble something like the Rockaway 16 plex that they opened last fall. It probably will be an exterior theater rather than an interior one since getting to the theater is frustrating if you’re in the mall (you go up a couple of levels, and have to use a map!!!).

evangkicksbutt on November 8, 2008 at 9:27 pm

I was just fired for the same reason. I have a bunny tattoo on my arm. It was even covered by makeup to meet there standerds Im going to talk to a lawyer also

TLSLOEWS on March 13, 2010 at 7:58 pm

That is B.S.every pimple faced kid in America has a tattoo now days.

You must login before making a comment.

New Comment