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TOPIC: Unattended Minors

Unattended Minors 30 Jun 2011 23:56 #36586

  • jenhelene
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How many of you have policies in place that enforce children of a certain age be accompanied by an adult, or an older child?

People have been dropping their kiddos off left and right for the "$1.00 family movies" in our relatively small town, and frankly, I just don't want to be responsible for them.

Especially when that middle-aged, possibly homeless guy comes in alone to buy one ticket to see Rio. It's not my responsibility to profile or screen my customers, nor is it my responsibility to sit with a group of kids for 2 hours to make sure they are safe and sound in the dark (We do what we can -- but staff is limited).

Just wondering what your thoughts are on this subject. In the state of Michigan, from what I understand, if something terrible happens (injury, etc.) to a minor because of direct parental negligence or abandonment, it's a crime. Or if a parent places a child in an environment that is known to be dangerous. But if nothing goes wrong, apparently, it's not "illegal".
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Re: Unattended Minors 01 Jul 2011 00:16 #36587

  • rufusjack
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What ages are the kids being left behind?
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Re: Unattended Minors 01 Jul 2011 02:02 #36588

  • jenhelene
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Generally, it's groups of 3-6 kids, sometimes siblings, sometimes siblings with their friends. So sometimes the ages vary widely. Say, 3 10 year olds and a 5 year old, or 2 8 year olds and a 6 year old -- things like that. Usually well under 12.

We started to dapple with taking down phone numbers for children who did not have a guardian over 13 with them. One Dad came in and bought tickets for his two daughters because "he had to go to work", and that would be "somewhere for them to go" until their babysitter got to the house. Rudeness of the act aside, he admitted that he may be unreachable in an emergency.

We did have a medical emergency at the theater a few months ago, and a child had to go to the hospital (before the movie even started). The group of kids were clearly freaked out and did not comprehend how to handle the medical situation, including not telling an adult right away. That may have been an isolated incident, but it proves that things DO happen, and we need to take measures to ensure that kids are being monitored more closely by someone "in charge".
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Re: Unattended Minors 03 Jul 2011 17:01 #36604

  • rodeojack
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Our policy was that unattended children had to be old enough for adult admission rates. Otherwise, we declined to sell them tickets.

Same here... no fun being their babysitter, and they frequently were sitting in the lobby for some time, waiting for their parents to show up.
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Re: Unattended Minors 04 Jul 2011 02:34 #36606

  • rufusjack
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We do allow kids to be dropped off. They seem to be no more behavior problems than when they are with their parents. However, your incident makes me want to at least make sure that we know what to do if their are any problems. I do not think you can ban the dropping off of kids as I believe it is pretty much an assumed practice with most parents.
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Re: Unattended Minors 09 Jul 2011 04:51 #36632

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rufusjack wrote:
We do allow kids to be dropped off. They seem to be no more behavior problems than when they are with their parents. However, your incident makes me want to at least make sure that we know what to do if their are any problems. I do not think you can ban the dropping off of kids as I believe it is pretty much an assumed practice with most parents.

Sure you can. It might be painful & require some patience on your part, but you get to set the rules, "assumed practice" or not. Post a deadline, make sure the kids hear about it. Send them home with a flyer, then after the date, hold them in the lobby & tell them to call their parents to pick them back up. Just about every kid over 1/2 is toting a cell phone these days. If they didn't pass the word to Mom, that would probably do it.

We required children under our adult price level to be accompanied by a general-admitted person. We also required that the parent or "chaperone" be in the same auditorium as the kids. It took a couple of months to settle out, but the place was (eventually) much more comfortable for everyone.

We went through much the same "wringing of hands" when we dropped $5 carloads at our drive-in. The tradeoff was that we could offer our customers first-run films.
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Re: Unattended Minors 09 Jul 2011 18:32 #36634

  • jenhelene
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Thanks for the feedback, everyone!

Such a ban isn't going to stop parents from "trying" to drop their kids off, but I think (for US) it may be a good start in the right direction.
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Re: Unattended Minors 11 Jul 2011 03:54 #36653

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I can't imagine telling the parents of 14 year olds that they need to come to the movies with their kids vs. dropping them off. They would laugh at me all the way to my competition.
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Re: Unattended Minors 18 Jul 2011 17:09 #36682

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Half of my attendees right now for this round of shows are unattended minors. Hmmmmm......I think I will continue to allow them to come without adults.
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Re: Unattended Minors 19 Jul 2011 15:08 #36686

  • rodeojack
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Well, you do what you think is best for your business, RufusJack. You know that a lot of what's here is just opinion, and nearly all of that expressed without direct knowledge of what's going on where you work.

The unfortunate part about problems like this is when they're allowed to go on to the point that customers expect it as a normal intent of a theatre's operation. Change comes slowly, and there's going to be pushback from those who might be taking advantage of the situation. We've experienced it on occation over the past 26 years at this place, not the least of which was when we dropped $5 carloads.

You have to decide which is more painful for you and your business... and who's running it, you or your customers. If the problem is an irriation to you but otherwise is good for business and doesn't chase the people you really want in there away, then live with it. If not, then maybe you have to put up with a little more pain while people get used to what you'll put up with in your own building. Some will go, a few with vocal opposition. If you made a good choice, more will eventually find you... or maybe come back.

Back when the practice was popular, a local theatre decided to drop its normal admission rates and go $1 per seat. For about 6 months the place was packed every night. On the surface, you had to admire that their parking lot was always full. The reality was that after dropping a buck at the boxoffice, not many of these customers were about to spend $5 or $6 at the snack bar. They also had less respect for the facility and its staff, and police were more frequently called to help eject recalcitrants.

In the end, the crowds diminished as more people got tired of the uncontrolled behaviour and lack of discipline. It closed within a year or so, never reopened and is now used for storage beneath a hotel.
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Re: Unattended Minors 20 Jul 2011 13:34 #36689

  • Mike
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after 16 years with our flagship theatre I've seen many little kids grow up and become theatre loving adults. We have always looked at what we do as part of making a safe place for kids and a trusted place in a small town. Young kids do come to the movie and we do care for them. Part of our job is to grow patrons so we teach, the old fashioned way, how to behave. I can't say unattended minors are any more of a problem than arrogant older patrons, or testosterone driven young men, or .......
Michael Hurley
Impresario
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Re: Unattended Minors 20 Jul 2011 15:54 #36690

  • revrobor
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Very wise words and policy Mike.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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