Checking IDs

Dan and I finally went to see Slumdog Millionaire this past weekend at the AMC theater in Sugar Land. (Verdict: outstanding. It would get my vote for Best Picture, although I’ve only seen two of the other contenders (Milk and Frost/Nixon))

Anyway, I had occasion to notice, as I passed by our theater a couple times before going in to sit down (on concessions and bathroom trips), that next to Slumdog (rated: R) was the new Friday the 13th movie (rated: R). The theater staff were aggressively checking IDs for the kids heading into Friday the 13th, and turning them away with statements like, “No, your parents actually have to come into the theater with you,” and “You can exchange your ticket at Guest Services to see a different movie.” Not that I’m against making teenagers follow the rules, but this seemed hypocritical to me, because they weren’t checking IDs for people going into Slumdog.

The argument, I assume, is that teenagers want to get into Friday the 13th but don’t care about seeing Slumdog Millionaire. That may be, but where does the theater draw the line? After all, that same night, Gran Torino, The Reader, Underworld: Rise of the Lycans, Revolutionary Road, The International, and Defiance, all rated R, were all playing at that same theater. How does the theater decide which ones will be most popular with teenagers? The ones with big stars like Clint Eastwood and Clive Owen? Or the ones with violence, like, again, those two movies, Underworld, and, to be truthful, Slumdog Millionaire? Which R movies does the theater want to protect the youngsters from? (Spoiler alert!) The violent ones? The depressing Holocaust films? The movie about how the suburbs will drive you to abortion and suicide?

The thing is, they all have “mature themes,” or they wouldn’t have gotten an R rating. It seems to me that the theater can’t and shouldn’t be in the business of deciding which R movies are no problem for teenagers to see and which are too violent or scary or disturbing or have too much sex in them. That, in fact, is what the ratings system is for, however flawed it, too, is. So the theater either needs to enforce IDs or parental accompaniment for teenagers all the time or not at all.

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