By J. Coyden Palmer, Chicago Crusader
The much-anticipated opening this week of the new Marcus Cinema in south suburban Country Club Hills is off to a rocky start after the company issued an apology to a Black teen who had been offered a job, but was fired because of her hairstyle.
Set to open October 14 on 167th Street—two blocks west of Pulaski—the theaters have been renovated after filling a vacancy when Loews left the property earlier this year. The new theater will showcase upgraded audio and visual effects in addition to customer amenities, like premiere food and beverage options and new stadium seating.
Last week, there was public outrage against the company after Markham teen, Tyler House, was fired on her first day of work due to her dreadlock hairstyle. Earlier this year, a federal court ruled companies could ban certain hairstyles, so when Tyler showed up for training on October 3, a Marcus employee saw her hair and House was pulled aside and told of the policy.
House stood her ground and decided to voluntarily leave for the day. She went home and told her mother, who was not happy, and went on a public tirade against the company.
“Why is it that dreadlocks are not permitted in [sic] your employees, but it’s okay for us to spend our dreadlock money in your company?” asked House’s mom, Darnetta Herring. “They come to an African-American neighborhood, but they discriminate against some of us.”
House’s mother’s comments were benign compared to her sister, Toi Perry, who took to Facebook to launch into Marcus Theatres. She said the company’s own stupidity allowed them to miss out on an intelligent, young lady, who would have added to their business. She said she was upset when her younger sister called her crying saying she had been fired because of her hair.
“When your little sister calls you crying because a job revokes her job offer on the first day just because she has dreadlocks… it makes your heart hurt a little,” stated Toi Perry.
After people on social media started threatening to boycott the new business, the company reacted quickly to try to quell the controversy.
They posted the following statement on their Facebook page:
“This week, we learned that a job candidate at our Marcus Country Club Hills Cinema was turned away because she wore dreadlocks. Some have expressed concern, and their reaction has led us to re-examine that decision. Marcus Theatres operates in many communities across the United States, and our success is due, in part, to our talented team. Our associates come to work each day committed to delivering a best-in-class experience to everyone who passes through our doors. Effective immediately, no job candidate will be disqualified because they wear dreadlocks. We are in the process of reviewing our protocols, and will update them to ensure that they reflect our professional standards and commitment to recognizing the diversity of our associates.”
The company also offered House her job back, but at Crusader press time, she had declined to accept their offer. House told the Crusader her first impression of the company was not a good one, and she found it ironic that their first impression of her was good enough that they hired her when she wore dreads during the interview, but was not told she would have to change before working there. She added she has no plans of patronizing the business either.
In the meantime, the process of moving forward with the grand opening has not tempered the excitement for many moviegoers in the area. They say the theater will address several needs in the area, including jobs, quality entertainment and much needed tax revenue for Country Club Hills, which has yet to build an outlet mall it has been advertising for years.
“The area has been kind of dying, and I’ve been quite concerned,” said former resident Kayla Hall, who now lives in Monee. “I blame the mayor and aldermen for not keeping businesses coming in. Nobody knows what is happening with the outlet mall. So, this is a great thing and should be celebrated. I plan on coming here with my kids a lot so they can see their old friends from the neighborhood.”
On opening weekend, the new theater will feature five films: “The Birth of a Nation,” the story about the Nat Turner slave revolt; thrillers “The Girl on the Train” and “The Accountant,” along with the new Kevin Hart comedy, “Kevin Hart: What Now?” and the science fiction adventure, “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.”