Study: Lax Enforcement of Movie Ratings

Lawmakers and Hollywood executives can talk all they like, but teens say they’ll still find ways to see the films they want to see, regardless of ratings.

“I don’t think [lawmakers] can stop you from seeing something out there,” says Cassity Hamilton, a 12-year-old resident of the Atlanta suburb of Woodstock, Ga.

“Kids are going to watch what they want, some way.”

A Federal Trade Commission report this month found that R ratings, which prohibit children under 17 from being admitted unless accompanied by a parent or guardian, are often not enforced in movie theaters.

Movie ratings are a system of voluntary guidelines created in 1968 by the Motion Picture Association of America.

Almost Half Snuck In

In the FTC’s undercover survey of 295 theaters earlier this year, 46 percent of unaccompanied 13 to 16-year-olds were able to buy tickets and attend R movies.

The FTC’s report found enterprising teens come up with a variety of ways to get around the rules. Some under-17s simply purchase tickets for the R-rated film without being asked for ID. Others get an older sibling, friend, or stranger to purchase tickets for them.

In multi-theater complexes, the FTC study found teens purchase tickets to a PG-13 or lower-rated film and then once past the ticket taker, go into the auditorium showing the R-rated picture.

Mixed Views

Not all teens are opposed to a ratings system, of course.

“Little children don’t need to be introduced to those things until they’re older. What kind of audience are they trying to attract?” asks Emily Alderman, a 16-year-old in Raleigh, N.C.

But many teenagers say they’ll continue frequenting R-rated movies because other films simply don’t interest them.

“What else is there to go see? Any movie worth going to is R-rated,” says Shawn McReedy, a 13-year-old from Woodstock, Ga.

Industry officials say they take enforcement of R ratings seriously, but some admit that there is only so much they can do.

Loews Cinemas, which operates 1,850 screens in 22 states, trains its ticket sellers to check IDs for R movies, says Marc Pescucci, the company’s vice president of marketing.

They also take additional steps to keep teens from sneaking in, he says, such as posting employees to check ticket stubs at auditorium entrances during the busiest parts of the week.

Still, he admits, “it’s impossible to do it 100 percent of the time, although we do try.

“We can only police so much, but we do our best.”

‘Parents Must Play a Role’He argues that parents must take some responsibility for teens who break the rules and sneak into R movies.

“We aren’t baby-sitters,” he says.

Rob White, a 17-year-old from Shelby, N.C., who has gone to R-rated movies with his parents, agrees.

“Ultimately I think it is the responsibility of the parents,” he says. “If the parents are responsible, then I don’t think it makes a difference what kids watch.”

ABCNEWS.com’s Oliver Libaw and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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