Starting on March 2, North Riverside Park Mall’s Classic Cinemas theater will no longer allow kids 6 years old and under to attend R-rated films, even when accompanied by a parent or guardian.
The movie theater chain announced the rule change in an email last week, saying that the switch is necessary to “foster a distraction-free environment.” In addition, they’ll no longer offer discounted ticket prices of $6 for kids ages 6 to 11 attending R-rated films.
“We struggled with this decision as our intent is not to dictate family values or determine what is appropriate for children,” Classic Cinemas said in its email. “However, enough children become bored during R-rated features and subsequently disrupt fellow guests that we felt this change was necessary. We hope you see this as a small but positive step toward achieving a more enjoyable movie-going experience.”
For years, Classic Cinemas – which owns 12 other multiplexes, including the Lake Theatre in Oak Park – has banned kids 6 and under from attending evening movies, according to owner Willis Johnson. But much of their business comes in the afternoon, and that rule wasn’t enough address the issue.
They’ve toyed with the change for years, but decided to implement it recently after receiving a handful of complaints at several theaters. Johnson declined to elaborate on specific instances, but his son, Chris Johnson, told the Chicago Sun-Times that it was audiences watching Girl with the Dragon Tattoo that pushed them over the edge. The best-picture nominee, in particular, includes several graphic sexual scenes.
Willis Johnson said they considered banning all kids, 11 and under, from R-rated movies, but figured the price change was enough of a hint to parents. Kids attending any other movies, from PG-13 to G, will still be charged the discounted rate.
He emphasized that the shift was not about dictating family values to patrons, but fostering a quiet atmosphere at the theater.
“In today’s circumstances, it’s cheaper to buy a movie ticket than it is to get a babysitter,” Johnson said. “It detracts from the movie-going experience. We are not trying to dictate what anybody’s children see. Most children are not particularly offended by what’s on the screen, they’re just bored out of their minds.”