Cinema Aasks Parents to Prove Children’s Ages
Parents who took their children to see Slumdog Millionaire at an Auckland cinema had to sign a waiver confirming the youngsters were old enough, or leave.
The Oscar winner has an R13 certificate and Newmarket’s Rialto cinema managers wanted to ensure they would not be held liable if Department of Internal Affairs staff raided the cinema.
That scenario was unlikely. Internal Affairs inspector Jon Peacock said the Censorship Compliance Unit did not do raids or undercover checks, focusing on an inspection programme that aimed to ensure cinemas were up-to-date with legislation requirements.
Under the Films, Videos and Publications Classifications Act, individuals can be fined up to $3000 and organisations $10,000. But if it can be proved someone “knowingly” broke the law, individuals can face a fine of up to $10,000 or three months in jail, while organisations can be fined $25,000.
Rialto Cinemas group manager Kathryn Bennett said the chain rarely showed R13 movies at its Auckland, Christchurch and Dunedin cinemas.
So when it was offered Slumdog Millionaire – which features violence and offensive language – it had to choose between getting proof of age from children suspected of being under 13 or not allow them in.
And because many 13-year-olds do not carry any photo identification – older teenagers usually hold a driver’s licence – some parents were asked to sign the waivers.
Motion Picture Distributors’ Association executive director Bill Hood praised the move.
“They are looking after their interests and they are waving the flag that censorship should be taken seriously,” he said. “It’s a sensible way of approaching the situation.”
University of Auckland associate law professor Bill Hodge warned the waivers were not “bulletproof”.
He said they would give the cinema “some protection” but not a complete defence against possible prosecution.
However, he felt Internal Affairs would probably “exercise their discretion” and not prosecute if it found a parent lied, reasoning “they’ve got better things to do”.
Internal Affairs has never taken a prosecution against a parent, cinema or staff member relating to underage moviegoers.
The Censorship Compliance Unit has had only 23 complaints from moviegoers about underage patrons since records began in the 1996/1997 financial year. During the same period there have been eight complaints from parents aggrieved they could not take children into a movie because they did not have ID.
Hood said his association had received similar complaints from upset parents, the highest number about Hot Fuzz, a British parody of gung-ho US cop films. Little Miss Sunshine, another R13 film, caused a similar stir, said Bennett.
“On occasions parents call to say they wanted to take their child to see a film, and they thought it was okay, but the cinema turned them down and they thought it was a bit much,” said Hood. [herald]
Comment: On a slightly different note, I think cinemas should ban parents from bringing there children to screenings that begin after 7.30. I’ve been to plenty of M rated movies (remember, M is recommended for mature audiences 16 years and over) and had to put up with little kids being restless, scared or constantly asking their parent what was happening in the movie. These parents would probably argue that they can’t get a babysitter and it;s not fair to ban them from screenings, but all I’m saying is they could have the courtesy to go to an earlier screening and be able to get their kids to bed at a reasonable time.