Movie theaters across the country are responding to political pressure for tough admission policies to R-rated films, but the get-strict approach is nothing new for Mann Theaters of Minnesota.
The company that operates Movies 10 in Brainerd and 17 other theaters with 90 screens in Minnesota has "followed the rating code for some time," Stephen Mann, company president, said in a recent interview.
"We make every effort to follow the code -- no one under 17 is admitted unless accompanied by an adult -- and that's nothing new for us," he said. "The adults have to show an ID and if they don't, they aren't admitted."
Mann Theater's policies require the adult to actually accompany and remain with the under-17 viewer admitted to an R-rated film, Mann and other company employees said.
It's not enough for a parent or other legitimate adult to give permission at the ticket booth, then leave, a policy that irritates some parents who "feel we have no right to decide what their children watch," Mann said.
"It's the responsibility of parents to decide what their kids see," he added, "but they have to play by our rules. It's a fair policy and a lot better than no policy at all."
Mann theaters' employees, including those at Movies 10, conduct routine walk-throughs during an R-rated showing to verify the adult has remained with an under-17 viewer, Mann and others said.
The routine strolls are also intended to flush out young ticket holders who have purchased admission to a G or PG-13 film, only to skip over to a screen with an R-rated movie.
"If we see kids sitting by themselves, we ask them to step out and offer a refund," Mann said. "If they aren't in the right theater, we give them an opportunity to go to the right one, but otherwise we ask them to leave."
Mann employees are asked to review every film that comes into their theater, posting special notices and, in some cases, staffing every entrance when an incoming movie seems particularly unsuitable for the under-17 crowd, Mann officials said.
"This is one of those moral things," Mann said. "We are trying to do our part for society. The industry as a whole has felt for many years that if we don't govern ourselves, the government will."
The industry, in fact, has come under siege over the past several months by both federal and state governments, pushing for tougher controls over the marketing and sales of R-rated and NC-17 movies, video games and other entertainment to under-aged kids.
Several state legislators, in fact, even considered bills that imposed criminal penalties on theater owners who failed to enforce the rating code, although no movement has surfaced in Minnesota.
The recent flurry of government activity was prompted in part by a Federal Trade Commission report last year that criticized the industry for making and marketing unsuitable product to teens and kids.
In response, the National Association of Theater Owners issued a set of strict but voluntary guidelines to its member theaters. Mann Theaters of Minnesota is not an association member, and had developed its own policies long before the recent debate.
Some theater chains have complained that the nationwide crackdown has resulted in lower ticket sales, but Mann does not agree.
"If you make films people want to see, they will come," the company executive said. "If a film is rated G or PG-13, the audience potential is greater than if it's rated R.
"From a sales standpoint, It's better to have PG movies in the market, and it makes our job easier besides," he added.
Brainerd Dispatch ©2013. All Rights Reserved.