Movies and alcohol don't mix

Thursday, June 11, 2009

One of my absolute favorite activities growing up was when my parents would drop me and a group of my middle school friends off at the local movie theater to watch the latest teen flick. I can't remember the movies that we watched, but I remember giggling through the two-hour shows and whispering about classes and our latest crushes.

This week, I happened upon a news article that discussed controversy regarding Wehrenberg's decision to sell alcohol products at the Campbell 16 Cinema in Springfield. I couldn't believe my eyes. It's one thing for parents to expect alcohol to be served in a bar, a sports complex or even an upscale restaurant, but I never dreamed that they would need to worry about alcohol being present at a movie theater.

Reading further into the article, I learned that the Wehrenberg family originally used a saloon as its concession venue for its first movie theater. This is an interesting fact, but I don't believe this is an adequate reason for reintroducing alcohol sales at theaters. The article also stated that many Wehrenberg theaters have served alcohol for quite some time, but this did not make me feel any better.

Many people who are opposed to movie theaters selling alcohol products fear that teens will have the ability to sample the beverages inside the dark theaters. I too worry about this. Being a teenager once myself, I know that where there is a will to attempt rebellious behavior, teens will find a way. Serving these products in this venue could very well make it even easier for teens to succeed in consuming alcohol.

Cinema staff members responded to statements that teens could have access to alcohol at the theater by saying that individuals are only allowed to purchase one alcoholic beverage at a time. Staff members also said that they are vigilant about individuals who return to purchase alcohol multiple times. I hope that this is true, and I hope that staff members card each individual who purchases alcohol at the theater.

Although I am hopeful that staff members are careful about providing alcohol to individuals in movie theaters, I can't help but have a few doubts. On several occasions when I have visited movie theaters I have watched staff members become overwhelmed by the crowds that congest concession lines. How will cinema owners be sure that all employees enforce the one drink regulation during these busy times, and how can they expect their employees to remember every face that comes through their line?

When I was younger, it seemed like a rite of passage to go to the movies with just my friends, no adults allowed. If the theater had sold alcohol then, would my parents have felt comfortable dropping me off and leaving me without any parental supervision?

When I have children, I will ensure that they are visiting a movie theater that does not serve alcohol, but it saddens me that this will be one more thing I will need to guard my kids against someday. It's one thing for adults to have the right to enjoy an alcoholic beverage at an eating establishment or club. It's something entirely different for alcohol to be introduced into what I once saw as a kid-friendly environment. In my opinion, alcohol and movie theaters don't mix, and I intend to spend my dollars at theaters that do not partake in this practice.

Lindsay Reed