For many Marvel fans, Avengers: Endgame was the highlight of their weekend. However, that wasn't the case for 15-year-old Emily Womack of Duncan, Oklahoma, who was asked to leave her local AMC before the film began.
Emily, who has Tourette Syndrome, went public about the event in a video posted to the Tourette Association of America's (TAA) Facebook. "I have the ability to suppress my tics... But it hurts, especially over long periods of time, so if I don't have to, I try not to," the teenager shared. "In order to watch the movie, I was releasing my tics before the movie started... so that during the movie I wouldn't be ticcing, because I like to enjoy the movie too. I don't want to scream.
"The manager of the theater came, and they tapped my mom on the shoulder," Emily continued. "They had told my parents that people were complaining about me. The movie hadn't started. There were previews about underwear on and stuff like that. I guess they asked if we could leave, and... they'd have to give the people in the theater free tickets if I didn't leave."
"I would appreciate in the future if somebody could talk to my parents or talk to me before going to a manager, or if the manager could have waited until the movie had started" she continued. "I didn't get one second in before they asked me to go. I've been waiting for this movie. It's Avengers: Endgame... I would have liked a chance in the future to be able to live normally and be a normal kid, go to the movies with my family."
In an interview with Metro, Tina Womack -- Emily's mother -- detailed their conversation with the manager in question. "When we got in the hallway, he told me nine people in the theater had come out and complained about her tics. I said, 'Oh, well, thats not a problem, she’s not going to do it during the movie... you wont hear a peep out of her.'
"He said, 'Well, I do have to ask that you guys would possibly consider leaving the theater, because I do have to go by what my patrons are concerned about, and they paid to see the movie.' I said, 'Are you for real?' He said 'Yeah, I can’t tell you to leave. I’m not allowed to tell you that, but I think that would be best.”’
Tina initially refused to go, but as Emily no longer felt comfortable staying, did eventually leave with her family. "Emily’s getting stressed, and so tics are getting worse," Tina recalled. "She’s starting to tear up and she said, 'I don’t think I can stay in here now.' Everybody’s watching me. We got out into the hallway, the manager rushed us out the door."
The family was given movie passes and concession vouchers.
Tourette Syndrome is a neurodevelopmental disorder involving involuntary motor and vocal/phonic tics. Estimates indicate 1 in every 160 children between the ages of 5-17 has Tourette Syndrome. The cause of the disorder is unknown at this time.
A press release from the TAA regarding Emily's experience says the organization and the Womacks "have asked for an opportunity to train AMC Theatres staff about Tourette to ensure that people living with Tourette’s don’t have to sacrifice the simple joy of going to the movies." As of writing, the TAA has not received a response.
AMC responded to these claims in an email to CBR: "To ensure everyone can enjoy the moviegoing experience, AMC does not permit disruptive noises during the movie. In this case, the theater team attempted to resolve this situation without anyone having to leave the movie."
"A theater manager, in response to multiple noise complaints during the trailers before Avengers: Endgame, verified the disruptive noise and discussed the situation with the family, explaining that disruptions are not permitted during the movie. The family was offered options in an attempt to resolve the issue, including the opportunity to see the movie at a less crowded showtime, but in no way did AMC 'kick out' the guest or family, nor were they made to leave. The family initially chose to stay in the movie. Shortly after the movie started, the family chose to leave. Wanting to make sure everyone feels welcome at the theatre, the manager offered multiple passes, and coupons for popcorn and soda for a return visit. We’ve also reached out to the family to discuss other options for them to come back and see the movie."
Directed by Joe and Anthony Russo, Avengers: Endgame stars Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man, Chris Evans as Captain America, Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner, Chris Hemsworth as Thor, Scarlett Johansson as Black Widow, Jeremy Renner as Hawkeye, Brie Larson as Captain Marvel, Paul Rudd as Ant-Man, Don Cheadle as War Machine, Karen Gillan as Nebula, Danai Gurira as Okoye and Bradley Cooper as Rocket, with Gwyneth Paltrow Pepper Potts, Jon Favreau as Happy Hogan, Benedict Wong as Wong, Tessa Thompson as Valkyrie and Josh Brolin as Thanos.