Was a Birmingham Movie Theater Wrong to Ban Unaccompanied Teens?

Teenagers won’t be allowed in the newly opened Emagine Theatre in downtown Birmingham unless they’re accompanied by an adult or part of the theater’s $350 per year membership club.

The new policy was put in place after customers complained about teenagers talking loudly and annoying others during a showing of The Intern over the weekend, the Detroit Free Press reports.

“It’s the ultimate tough love to ensure our guests, who are paying a substantial amount for the experience, get what they pay for,” Paul Glantz, co-founder of Emagine Entertainment, says in the article. “One of the things we’re adamant about is (that) people conduct themselves in a courteous way and act with civility.”

Emagine’s new Birmingham theater, which opened Friday in the location of the former Palladium 12, will allow teens in alone if their families have a $350 per year membership. The new membership program offers benefits such as advance ticket sales, the Free Press reports.

The new policy is understandably getting mixed reviews.

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“Hooray for Paul Glantz!,” Michael Allie writes in the comments on the Free Press story. “We need more people who aren’t trying to cater to the few who are disruptive in society and instead take care of those of us who aren’t disruptive.”

On an MLive.com story about the new policy, user HerminJames comments that a movie theater without teens sounds like a “dream come true.”

“Good for them. I would love a membership-only theater around here where people are actually held accountable,” he writes.

Others say the decision is unfair, elitist or even discriminatory.

“Guess I won’t go there either. Too elitist. Membership? Give me a break,” Alinda Wasner comments on the Free Press article. “Start a theatre club for teens and reward those who exhibit good behavior with a free pass.”

Tara Michener wrote that teens “should be treated with the same dignity and respect as any other class” and shouldn’t need an expensive membership to be able to enjoy a movie at that theater.

“In my experience excluding a whole group is considered discrimination,” she writes.

It does seem like a bit of a knee-jerk reaction to immediately ban all teens after one bad experience during opening weekend, though the company was obviously aware of the issues the former Palladium had. Of course some teens aren’t pleasant to be in a theater with, but why not offer “teen-friendly” showings at certain times? Why not hire more staff to monitor the theaters or charge a little more for adults who want an “adult-only” experience? Why ban all unaccompanied teens?

The way I see it, local teenagers need more safe, positive places to spend time – not fewer. And implementing a policy that only allows unaccompanied teens who have a family membership does nothing to ensure those teens are acting appropriately and only serves to weed out teens from families with less disposable income. What kind of message does that send?

I think Emagine can do better.

What do you think? Do you agree with Emagine’s decision? Tell us in the comments.

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