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February 6, 2013

Emagine sets admission restrictions on teens

By Chris Jackett
C & G Staff Writer

ROYAL OAK — Local trips to the movies for teenagers became a little trickier this month.

The Emagine Theatre in Royal Oak instituted a policy at the turn of the new year where anyone 16 or younger must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian after 6 p.m. daily. The policy, which was posted on the theater’s website late Jan. 18 after a complaint, is not on the web pages for any of Emagine’s other six theaters in Rochester Hills, Novi, Canton, Woodhaven, Birch Run or Clio, the latter two of which do not use the typical Emagine branding.

Resident Margaret Partlan said her daughter tried to go see “Les Miserables,” which is rated PG-13, as part of a double date for a 7:15 p.m. showing Jan. 18 and were turned away because two of the four teens were 16. The other two were 17.

“My daughter made it through midterms and thought she did pretty well,” Partlan said. “My husband drove them to the theater and dropped them off in front. Twenty minutes later, she called and said they wouldn’t let her in.”

Partlan said she called the theater and the manager on duty was only able to give her limited information.

“He didn’t really have a good explanation for me,” Partlan said. “(He) told me this policy was a new policy and they taped a sign up on the door in response to something that took place over Christmas break where kids were loitering in the lobby. That seems rather ill-planned and arbitrary.”

The sign, which was still posted on each door Jan. 28, read, “After 6 p.m., no one under the age of 17 will be admitted unless accompanied by a parent or legal guardian who agrees to be responsible for the conduct and safety of the under-aged guest(s).” And it added in small print, “Management, in its sole discretion, retains the right to modify this policy at any time.”

After Partlan and another parent, Sheryl Hunter, emailed local media outlets about their disgust for the new policy, Partlan said the theater offered Hunter four free movie passes. However, it also spurred a tweak to the new policy.

On Feb. 1, Ruth Daniels, Emagine’s senior vice president of Advertising, Sales & Marketing, said via email that teens would be allowed into the theater under three specific stipulations, effective that weekend.

Teens under 17 years of age who are attempting to enter the theater after 6 p.m. must be able to present a photo identification that the theater deems acceptable; provide the theater with the name and telephone number of their parent(s) or legal guardian; and the theater must be able to reach that parent/guardian by phone to confirm that they take responsibility for the teen prior to the teen entering the theater.

“Of course, we reserve the right to revise or alter our policy at any time in the sole discretion of Emagine management,” Daniels said via email. “We strive to offer the best movie-going experience available to all guests. To do so, we do enforce curfews.”

The city has a 10:30 p.m. curfew for those 16 and younger. Partlan said nothing was posted on the theater’s website about the restriction until sometime after 8 p.m. Jan. 18.

“It’s a social injustice,” Partlan said. “It’s a private business. They can do whatever they want. It’s a shame that date night is done with. Way to keep the business in the community? I don’t think so.”

Partlan said she expects movie-going teens to head to Birmingham or other nearby cities if they have a driver’s license, which her daughter does not.

She is concerned that those turned away may turn to vandalism, which she has experienced as a Main Street resident.

“Now you’ve got six angry teenagers who can’t go to this movie theater and they’ll walk around the neighborhoods,” Partlan said. “My job is to raise my daughter to be a contributing member of society and not a little punk, so I believe her when she says they weren’t acting out or being rude.”

She said any misbehaving — from roughhousing and excessive loitering to using phones in a theater during the presentation — should be dealt with by the ushers or staff security, rather than banning everyone from entering the theater without parental assistance. Partlan said the more focus the Royal Oak Emagine puts on its Star Lanes feature, the less community-oriented it becomes.

For more information on the local Emagine, visit www.emagine-entertainment.com/emagine-royal-oak.

You can reach C & G Staff Writer Chris Jackett at cjackett@candgnews.com or at (586)279-1110.