A popular cinema chain has apologised after it made a wheelchair-bound muscular dystrophy sufferer leave 40 minutes into a movie because filmgoers complained the noise of his life-saving ventilator was a "nuisance".

Richard Bridger, 31, from Epsom, who has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, was asked to leave the Odeon cinema, in Upper High Street, Epsom, on Saturday night.

The incident came just a week after volunteers from the Motor Neurone Disease Association were allowed to make bucket collections at the cinema, which is screening the film about the wheelchair-bound science genius Stephen Hawking, The Theory of Everything.

UPDATE: Odeon staff to be retrained in disabilities awareness after man in wheelchair thrown out of cinema for causing a "nuisance" with his ventilator

Mr Bridger, who is confined to an electric wheelchair as he has extreme muscle weakness and requires the use of a ventilator attached to his wheelchair for at least 18 hours a day, was enjoying Taken 3 in the wheelchair bay of the cinema when his carer was approached by a member of staff.

He was told that he and Mr Bridger would have to get out because people had complained about the sound of the ventilator.

His father, Steve Bridger, said the member of staff who asked them to leave did not apologise and only gave them a refund when the carer asked for one.

He said six people, out of an audience of 200, "were complaining that the ventilator was a nuisance" and that the carer was told his son should not to come to the cinema on Friday or Saturday evenings in future as it is "too busy".

Steve Bridger, who was furious at the cinema’s discriminatory behaviour, said: "The ventilator does make a small noise, the air rushing and puffing, but it’s nothing drastic at all.

"When we are at home we can watch a TV programme with it on.

"If he was texting or answering phone calls during the film I could understand it, but he can’t do any of those things because he doesn’t have the physical strength to do them.

"Richard has been going to the cinema since it opened and, in the last four years, has required the use of the ventilator to keep his carbon dioxide levels down which can be life-threatening if they are raised too high.

"All he wanted to do was go out and watch a film and it takes a lot of organisation to arrange for Richard to go out.

"I find it disgusting that, in this age, a person who is mentally capable - Richard has 14 GCSEs and a degree - but relies on life-saving equipment, should be treated in this way."

Epsom Guardian:

Mr Bridger said he met with the general manager after the incident who he said endorsed the decision taken by the member of staff to remove his son from the cinema.

He added: "What about people eating popcorn and rustling the packets?

"This is total discrimination.

"Odeon doesn’t take disability seriously enough."

On its website, Odeon states: "We will strive to deliver the service people demand and deserve, and to create a culture and environment that eliminates unfair discrimination and which actively promotes productive working relationships based on the unique contribution of different individuals in all of our operations.

"We support the principles of the Equality Act (2010) and are committed to recognising and responding to the needs of all disabled people.

"It is our intention, wherever possible, that all our premises and facilities are accessible whatever the nature of disability."

In a statement to the Epsom Guardian yesterday Jason Stanton, head of guest experience at Odeon, said: "We sincerely apologise for the way this matter was handled and for the upset it caused.

"We are inviting Mr Bridger and his son to return and enjoy Taken 3 at any time as guests of Odeon Epsom.

"We are also looking again at what happened to ensure it never happens again."

Epsom Guardian:

Victoria Wright, campaigns officer for Trailblazers, Muscular Dystrophy Campaign’s network of young disabled campaigners, said it was "very disturbed" to hear about Mr Bridger’s experience.

She said: "Due to his Duchenne muscular dystrophy, he often needs a ventilator to breathe.

"If the noise unfortunately disturbed other customers, then you would hope they would make the compassionate choice to move seats.

"Richard, on the other hand, has no choice but to use his ventilator to breathe.

"To remove Richard from the cinema and imply he can only come at certain, less popular times because of his disability, was insensitive and discriminatory.

"To talk to his carer instead of him directly was also extremely rude.

"We are delighted to hear the Odeon have now apologised. It was not appropriate to ask Richard to leave.

"We hope they will have a think about what further disabilities and equality training their staff will need so this type of incident does not happen again."

Got a story? Contact Hardeep Matharu by calling 020 8722 6346, email hmatharu@london.newsquest.co.uk or get in touch on Twitter by tweeting @Hardeep_Matharu.