During my university days, I had the interesting experience of working at the local movie theater for a year. While age rules are somewhat lax (it really is hard to card for a PG-13 movie when most people in the states don’t have any form if ID until they’re at least 15 or 16), there were two things we were strict about. No one under the age of 18 could see an R-rated movie without their partent/legal guardian present (this one was actually law, and carried an automatic $5,000 fine if we were caught breaking it), and after 6pm, no one under the age of six was allowed in an R-rated movie at all (this was only company policy, but we enforced it just as strictly). I can think of dozens of stories off the top of my head where we had problems with this, but one in particular stands out.
A woman bought three tickets to an R-rated movie, then instantly turned around and gave them to three boys (who looked to be between the ages of 8 and 12) and told them to enjoy their show. I immediately turned the microphone back on, saying, “Ma’am? Children under the age of 18 are not allowed to see that movie without a parent in the theater with them. You’ll either have to accompany them yourself, or I can exchange the tickets for another movie.”
She then spent the next five minutes trying to argue that since she – their mother – had bought the tickets, she was giving her permission for them to watch the show, and didn’t actually need to be in attendance. I did my best to deal with her calmly and politely, even offering to refund the tickets entirely if that was her preference. Still, she persisted. Finally, after I offered to call my manager down so he could speak with her, she bought herself a ticket.
I quickly phoned the ushers to warn them that we might have a “ditching parent,” our catch phrase for parents who would seat their children in the theater, then skip out on the movie itself. So when the boys tried to get past the ticket taker without their mother present, they were once again informed that they had to have a parent or guardian with them to see an R-rated film. It took another five minutes to relocate the woman – who by this time probably felt rather harassed, though we were as polite as possible – and she went into the theater with her boys.
As soon as the credits started, however, she slipped out the door and began walking toward the exit. By this time, the managers had been informed of the situation, and one of the ushers pointed her out to them. The two of them politely stopped her at the door, and informed her that she needed to stay with her sons for the entire movie, or the boys would be escorted out of the show. Sighing, she went back in.
Not long afterward, the usher on rounds ducked in to check the theater (no, not just becaus of the woman; we check each showing several times, just in case anything goes wrong with either film, theater or audience) and found the three boys alone, no mother in sight. The managers were informed, and they escorted the very loudly upset children out of the theater. The three boys were parked on a bench in the lobby to wait, and an usher was assigned to keep an eye on them – both to make sure they didn’t sneak back in as well as to see that nothing happened to them while they waited.
Then our security guard arrived. He was a city police officer, and worked at the theater on weekend evenings when he was off-duty. After hearing the entire situation from the management, he went back out to his car, changed into his uniform, and was waiting beside the boys when their mother finally arrived to pick them up – more than an hour after the show they’d been trying to see had let out.
Furious that we had kicked her boys out of the movie, she started railing at the security officer that she wanted her money back, and that it was theft. He, however, calmly informed her that there was a $5,000 fine for under-aged attendance in a rated-R movie… per child.
As she digested that, he informed her that he could be persuaded not to press charges against her, but she needed to leave the establishment, and neither she nor her sons would be welcome there again.
On her way out the door she still stopped by the box office and demanded her money back. As polite as ever, I gave it to her and wished her a nice day. I got the finger in return. Oh, well. 0815-10
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