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Movie Theaters Attempting to Curb Unruly Teen Behavior with Bans, Lectures

Posted on Thursday, October 25th, 2007 3:15 PM

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Even though this year has been a good one for movie theaters, they still face a very real issue that many people have curbed their attendance or simply stopped going to movies in theaters altogether. The exception is the teenage crowd, which often views going to the movies as a social experience, akin to going to the mall was for teenagers in the 80's.

The reason for the former situation has much to do with the latter. I've heard from many people in their 20's and above that no longer wish to deal with crowds of teenagers who think nothing of talking on cell phones, texting their friends (the backlights on most cell phones show up very plainly in a darkened theater), and who are disruptive during the movie. While I'm sure that there are teenagers who still have manners, it would seem that those are the exception and not the rule.

According to data from the MPAA, only 25% of people between 40-59 attend movies at a movie theater at least once a month. That number drops to 9% for those 60 and above. The general consensus is that these people haven't stopped watching movies, they've just stopped going to theaters to do so. That's one big reason why DVD sales often make more money than the theatrical release.

So, if you're a theater manager, what to do? The teenagers are a necessary evil with a movie like "Saw IV" but you're not going to attract many kids to "Reservation Road" or "Things We Lost in the Fire."

USA Today has an article today titled "Movie houses' latest adult attraction: No kids" where the attempts by various theaters to attract adults again range from banning kids from certain shows to lecturing them on proper conduct before they can see movies after a certain time:

A growing number of movie theaters, trying to woo more adults, are banning youngsters who aren't with their parents or excluding them from late-night showings.

Kerasotes Theatres is testing "adult-friendly" movies at 13 of its 95 locations, spokeswoman Clair Malo says.

Two theaters in suburban Chicago require patrons 17 and younger to attend a short "code of conduct" class on decorum before they can see movies at 8:30 p.m. or later without parents.

Theaters are searching for ways "to get people who don't go to the movies as often to go more," says Patrick Corcoran, spokesman for the National Association of Theatre Owners. "Luxury amenities … and adults-only screenings help."

Click the Read link below to read the full article.

I guess I'm fortunate in that I usually attend movies at odd hours on odd days of the week, so I don't run into what is probably a typical weekend crowd. I have been in a theater where a teenager had her feet up on the seat in front of her and she was texting on her cell phone. Someone two rows behind her finally got up and told her to shut it off or leave.

This kind of enforcement is the only way to curb such behavior. If theaters are unwilling to provide staff to do it, or give their customers with a way to notify the management via pagers, then the ideas raised in the USA Today article are the next best method.

Given the fact that "adults-only" shows can be marketed as such, and that it's easier for the target audience to understand, I can see the appeal. The flip side to that approach is that nothing is being done about disruptive behavior at the other shows, and some people attending those shows will still be unhappy.

Personally, I think it's less effective to take such drastic actions than it would be to monitor behavior issues and eject those that break the rules that are clearly indicated. If people know that someone is monitoring their actions and that they will get the boot if they get out of line, I think the disruptive activities would come to a rapid end. Word gets around, and it won't take long for a theater to get the reputation that disruptions won't be tolerated. This gets rid of the problem without unfairly treating everyone the same just because they fall into a particular age group.

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