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This story first appeared in the April 1 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Alamo Drafthouse Cinema, the Texas-based theater chain founded in 1997 by mechanical engineer Tim League and his wife, Karrie, was a pioneer in creating the upscale moviegoing experience with in-theater dining and beer on tap. Now it’s at the forefront of a trend that quietly has been adopted by a majority of theaters nationwide: barring children under age 6 from seeing R-rated films after 6 p.m. so as to provide a better experience for adults.
Exhibitors say they enacted the policy based on a cascade of complaints from customers bothered by noisy and restless tots, or by the idea of seeing a kid watching violent or sexual content. In the latest twist, some circuits are enforcing the rule 24/7. That group includes Regal Entertainment, the largest U.S. chain. The two next-largest circuits, AMC Entertainment and Cinemark, are sticking to “No 6 After 6,” as the rule is known, for now.
“At Regal, it’s our job to provide the best moviegoing experience for our patrons, and we want to make sure there are minimal interruptions during R-rated movies,” Regal CEO Amy Miles tells THR. “We best achieve this through controlling the number of children in these films.”
The ban in essence tightens the movie ratings system, which is administered by the Motion Picture Association of America and the National Association of Theatre Owners and mandates that anyone under age 17 attending an R-rated film be accompanied by an adult or guardian.
Cinema operators contend any money lost is worth keeping a majority of customers content. So far, no Hollywood studio has raised a major objection.
The genesis of the age cutoff isn’t known. “We tried to determine at what age a kid can behave themselves and not blurt out the first thing in their heads,” says League. Alamo, which now boasts 22 U.S. locations, doesn’t allow kids under 6 into most films, R-rated or otherwise, with family movies shown on “baby day” being an exception.
NATO and the MPAA haven’t taken official positions, saying it’s a business decision by individual cinema owners. One such owner is Celebration! Cinema CEO John Loeks, who doubles as the new chairman of NATO’s board. On Feb. 1, days before the R-rated superhero movie Deadpool opened, the Michigan-based chain extended the ban to all day, as opposed to only after 6 p.m.
Says Celebration! vp marketing Steve VanWagoner, “We went that way knowing there would probably be some pushback, but the reaction for the most part has been very positive.”
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