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Ontario Human Rights Commission urges Famous Players to provide financial data

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March 8, 2001

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For immediate publication

Toronto - Reacting to misinformation in recent media coverage of a case involving Famous Players theatres, Chief Commissioner Keith Norton stated that, "There is a pressing need to give some balance to the information that has been provided to the public. I regret having to take the extraordinary step of commenting on a complaint that has not yet been decided on by the Board of Inquiry."

Famous Players has stated that it would cost $2.5 million to make the Uptown Theatre accessible. This is contrary to the expert evidence called by Famous Players at the Board of Inquiry estimating this cost to be less than $700,000. In addition, Famous Players' public statement that it would cost "a few hundred thousand" dollars to renovate the Eglinton Theatre is also inaccurate when compared with testimony presented at the Board of Inquiry.

Moreover, neither Famous Players' architectural expert, nor anyone else, testified that making the Eglinton Theatre wheelchair accessible would destroy the historical character of the building. Indeed, the architectural expert went out of her way to propose design modifications that would respect the unique architectural features of the Eglinton Theatre.

In light of this recent public position, the Ontario Human Rights Commission invites Famous Players to produce the financial data to support its claim that it will have to close the doors on the Eglinton and Uptown theatres if ordered to renovate. "This is a matter that should be presented to the Board of Inquiry and not tried in the court of public opinion," said the Chief Commissioner.

Famous Players has refused to provide the Board of Inquiry with any financial data, on the theatres themselves or the company as a whole. At the Board, it took the position that its ability to pay for the renovations was not an issue. "I find it particularly deplorable that Famous Players would attempt to pit the legitimate desire to protect heritage buildings against the rights of persons with disabilities."

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François Larsen