People under 17 would be barred by law from movie theaters during the showing of an R-or NC-17-rated film if a bill under consideration in the New York State legislature becomes law.

Assemblyman Neil W. Kelleher (R-C Rensselaer) has introduced a bill in the New York assembly that would make the owner, lessee, manager or employee of a theater criminally liable for allowing minors to enter the theater when these films were being shown.

Minors are already prohibited from theaters showing NC-17 films by voluntary restrictions established by the Motion Picture Assn. of America; those same guidelines require that minors be accompanied by a parent or guardian to R pics.

But according to Kelleher, “There have been numerous instances of misguided parental supervision. For all practical purposes, [the voluntary restrictions] are unenforceable. Adults who are not parents or guardians often accompany children. In addition, parents often take small children to an inappropriate movie in order to view it themselves.”

He went on to note: “Graphic depictions of violence, forced sexual acts and scenes designed to inflict terror can traumatize children and warp perceptions of society. Theaters are powerless to remove small children, even when their reaction is obvious. This

[bill] would allow enforcement and correct a serious problem.”

But the MPAA believes the bill violates the First Amendment guarantee of free speech. “The ratings are used as guidelines and are not legal determinations as to whether a film is obscene or harmful to minors,” says MPAA v. p. Gail Markels. “We support the goals of the legislation, but believe that the industry voluntarily regulates itself and that this type of legislation is unnecessary and unconstitutional.”

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