PLYMOUTH — This weekend, Showland Cinemas will show its first family movie since Christmas. It will be a relief for owner Dave Kinney, who said that business has been down recently because of lack of family-friendly flicks.
“We’ve been struggling a lot for the past month and a half because for some reason Hollywood has been on this kick of R-rated, violent movies,” said Kinney. “That’s just not small town fare.”
At Showland, children under the age of 17 must have a parent or legal guardian with them to see an R-rated movie. And after 6 p.m., children under 11 years old aren’t allowed in an R-rated movie at all.
Kinney said he’s gotten complaints about the policy but he wants to run a business that he’s proud of.
“I don’t want to look back and say, ‘Hey, I let those kids in to watch an R-rated movie and they became delinquents later on,’” said Kinney. “Yeah, you can’t make a direct connection, but (R-rated movies) do affect (children).”
He added, “In older movies, violence stopped at a certain point, because you knew what happened. Kids…don’t need to see guts and bullets flying around.”
Sam Soliman, psychology professor at Ancilla College, said that he was shocked recently when he observed families with young children entering a showing of Texas Chainsaw Massacre 3D at a theater in South Bend.
“My jaw just hit the floor,” said Soliman. “I saw kids that were six or seven years old there with their parents, and there was even one couple with a baby. I think people think that it’s okay with R-rated movies if the parent is there (with the children) but the way movies are now, with the gore and the realness…how could a kid not have PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) because of that?”
He continued, “Before young adulthood, the brain is still developing. Exposing a kid to those things can have consequences in how their brain develops. If the centers of the brain that control fear are constantly ignited or activated, it won’t be a surprise if that kid as an adult has paranoia or anxiety disorder.”
The Pilot News asked local parents for feedback on this issue on Facebook and received varied responses.
“I can’t say I’ve necessarily kept R-rated movies completely out of the house because then I’d be lying,” said Amanda Carsey. “My son is obsessed with zombies and if there is no nudity or strong, offensive cussing, he can watch it. He knows wrong from right and knows that if he says a bad word, there is punishment.”
Monica Eyrich Parkhurst said, “In general, at the theater when I don’t know the reason (the movie) is rated R, no way. But it is very difficult to give absolutes in this (or any) situation. Is (the movie) rated R for sexual situations and nudity, or for violence and language? Is the child 6 or 14? Is the rated R movie being shown edited on TBS, and the parent approves of the subject matter for the child? There’s a big difference in all those considerations, and that’s what parenting is about...making the decision based on your child.”
Soliman noted that entertainment content has changed significantly over the years.
“In the 1950s and 60s, TV portrayed bad guys as, if you were a bad guy you always got caught,” said Soliman. “Now that’s changed. TV shows now don’t show the consequences of crimes. Kids see violence now as, it’s a way of life and you can get away with it.”
Soliman said that the way adults and children view R-rated movies is usually different.
“Most adults can distinguish between reality and fantasy,” said Soliman. “They probably have different coping skills and ways to deal with stress and anxiety that kids might not have developed yet.”
Shanda Palbykin Stevens, another local parent who sounded off on the Pilot News Facebook page, said that she doesn’t allow her children to watch R-rated movies because “it’s a parent’s job to shelter their kids and keep them innocent as long as possible.”
Solimon, who is also a father to three children under the age of 10, said that he doesn’t think “sheltering” a child is a bad thing.
“I know they will see stuff later in life, but right now I know I don’t want (my kids) to see the norm,” said Soliman. “When you are a kid, that fear is real.”