A Midwestern theater chain has created ID cards for minors indicating that guardians have given permission for the minor to see R-rated movies.

Springfield, Ill.-based GKC Theaters now offers the “R-card,” an ID bearing the minor’s picture and the guardian’s signature, which allows the holder to enter R-rated movies without having the guardian physically present.

“We believe it’s your choice as to when your child is allowed to view R rated films,” the theater chain says on its Web site. “That’s why we’ve created the R-CARD. This photo ID card will allow teens 16 years and younger to see R rated titles without an adult.”

The GKC Theaters Web site has a section on the R-card, which indicates how the card works, where patrons may purchase the $2 card, and general information about R-rated movies.

The R-card debuted last October, according to a Christian Science Monitor article.

The Motion Picture Association of America, whose Classification and Ratings Administration issues a movie’s rating, believes the card is a bad idea.

“To give a blanket card to a child to see any R film they want intrudes on what the rating system is about, which is parental approval of individual films,” Jack Valenti, CEO of the MPAA, told the Monitor. “It’s not in the long-term best interest of parents unless they have a very casual regard for what movies their children are seeing.”

The card is currently sold at about nine GKC theaters, but it’s accepted at each of the chain’s 29 theaters. The minor and the parent must appear together to purchase the card.

“Parents are urged to learn as much about a film as possible before they permit their children to attend,” says GKC’s information about R-rated movies. “Reading reviews and feature articles or speaking with your theater manager and friends are good ways to gather information in addition to the ratings.”

John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, also disagrees with the R-card, saying it doesn’t meet theater guidelines specifying that a parent or guardian accompany the minor.

The R-rating, which stands for “restricted,” says, “Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.”

“In the best case, the parent goes in with the kid,” Fithian told the Monitor. “But it at least means the parent comes to the box office and makes a decision about a particular film.” GKC Theaters responded by saying parents may choose to hold onto the card, giving it to the minor only for certain films.

Newsweek reported that NATO is pressuring GKC Theaters to cease distribution and acceptance of the card, now being used by about 422 minors, according to the Monitor.

George Kerasotes, founder of GKC Theaters, helped organize NATO in 1947, and he served as president from 1953 to 1959. He died in 2001.

Cliff Vaughn is culture editor for EthicsDaily.com.

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