Today in “I can’t believe this wasn’t already a thing,” The Hollywood Reporter has a story about a “quiet” new movement among movie-theater owners: Banning children under the age of six from attending R-rated movies after 6 PM. Like several other exhibition trends (the theater is famous for its full menu and strict “no cell phones” policy), this one was pioneered by the Texas-based Alamo Drafthouse chain, whose founder, Tim League, tells THR that he picked the age of six by “determin[ing] at what age a kid can behave themselves and not blurt out the first thing in their heads.”
Now several other theater chains, including AMC and Cinemark, are quietly adopting the policy as well. Regal Entertainment, America’s largest theater chain, is going one step further and banning children under the age of six from attending R-rated films at all. Technically, this is contrary to the MPAA’s rule on R-rated films, which simply states that a child “under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.” But the MPAA is a Hollywood trade organization, not a government body, and as such has no actual regulatory power over what theater owners do on their own private property.
Beyond that, the move has been popular. THR notes that Regal quietly instated its policy on February 1, days before unexpected blockbuster and prompter of social-media hand wringing about kids and swear words Deadpool hit theaters. And several chains credit/blame busybody patrons complaining about having to watch scenes of violence or sex with toddlers nearby—being traumatized by the kids’ hypothetical trauma, in essence—for the new policy. Personally, this writer saw Rob Zombie’s Halloween II (I know, I know) in a mostly empty theater (shocking) sitting near a tired-looking couple and their two preschool-aged children, and the kids’ crying and screaming throughout was infinitely more unsettling than the movie itself. I’m still not sure if it enhanced or detracted from the experience. But at least they weren’t on their fucking cell phones.