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Me and my friends went to go see an R rated movie at an AMC theater. My friend's dad was there to buy the tickets. After that he went back to his car.

When we went to go into the theater the guy who collects the tickets asked us our ages. We told him that we are 15, and he said that we needed a parent with us, so we ran back to the car and had my friend's dad come back with us and they said he needed to be in the theater with us. He bought a ticket and walked to the theater with us and then left.

A few minutes later before the movie even started, the ticket collector came into the theater and asked where our parent was, we replied he left, and the guy escorted us out of the theater and said that we couldn't come back that day, when we asked for a refund he said we couldn't have one.

So I was just wondering if they broke any laws or if they were in the clear.

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    They didn't break any laws. They told you that you needed a parent with you to watch the movie. You failed to meet this requirement, so they kicked you out. You probably can't get your ticket price back because it would be considered a reasonable thing to not allow kids into R rated movies without parents. – Shazamo Morebucks Jul 19 '17 at 8:22
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    While this question may be a bit naive, it is nontheless a valid and on-topic question, so I am sad to see it got downvoted. Here's my upvote :-). – sleske Jul 20 '17 at 9:20
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At a minimum, what the theater did was not a crime. When you are in a movie theater you have what is called a "license" from the theater to be present, which is revocable at will without due process (possibly subject to breach of contract damages) and not a property right to be in the theater the way that a tenant who must be evicted does.

As a practical matter, given that the amount in controversy is, at most, $25 or so, and this is not a situation where the prevailing party would get their attorneys' fees, this is not cost effective to litigate, regardless of who is correct, even in small claims court without an attorney.

Whether or not the theater breached its contract isn't perfectly clear, because usually, the contract between a movie goer and a movie theater is not spelled out in any writing provided to the movie goer, incorporated by reference in something disclosed to the movie goer, or signed by either of the parties, or even with an oral offer and acceptance setting forth all of the terms of the agreement. (Of course, if a written terms of service is actually provided to the movie goer, or a reference to where it can be found is provided to the movie goer, those terms will control and the contract will almost certainly be written to allow the movie theater to do what it did in this case.) In the frequent case where this is not done, the contract between a movie goer an a movie theater is usually a contract implied in fact whose terms at the edges aren't terribly well defined and there is little case law to tell us what the terms of the contract is, because the cases aren't worth litigating up to an appellate court where binding precedents are made.

Indeed, one reason that movie theaters may have declined to put their implied in fact contracts with movie goers in writing is to leave the situation ambiguous so as to discourage someone whose case would be clear even if for a small dollar amount, if the terms of the contact were clear, from suing them over issues like this one. When the stakes are small and the outcome is always uncertain, it almost never makes sense to sue.

There is certainly a colorable argument that you breached the contract by being present without an adult at an R-rating movie when the public statements about an R rating made available to the movie goers says that rated R means only admitted with a person over the age of 17, contrary to the theater's policies on that issue, although it isn't perfectly clear if this is a suggestion or a binding term of the agreement.

Another fair interpretation of the contract between a movie goer and the movie theater is that a movie goer can be removed from any movie whenever, if in the reasonable opinion of the movie theater management, good cause exists to do so, and that its discretion should be upheld so long as it acts in good faith and in a non-discriminatory manner.

I don't agree, however, that the question of whether or not you breached a contract was unambiguously clear, because the terms of the agreement are not well defined. I would give you at least a 20% chance of prevailing if you took the issue to court although I would agree that it is more likely than not that you would not prevail if you took the issue to court.

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Your contract is with AMC theaters, not MPAA. Each theater in principle can set it's own contract terms, but it is probably established at the corporate level. Two examples are here and here. At the bottom there is a statement of Age Policy for R-Rated Films.

Under 17 required accompanying parent or adult guardian (age 21 or older). Guests 25 years and under must show ID. We restrict children younger than 6 from attending R-rated films after 6 pm to improve the experience for everyone. To bring your children younger than 6 to R-Rated films, please visit us before 6pm.

Of course, this is not sufficient notice for walk-up purposes, but you can go to an AMC theory and see references to R-rated film policy, which puts you on notice that there is such a policy.

The terms do not explicitly say that the adult must remain with the minors in the theater, but that is irrelevant. What matters is whether it is reasonable to interpret the R-Rated contract term as meaning "it is sufficient that an adult purchase a ticket, without remaining in the theater". If there were an actual ambiguity of language, you might have a case that there was a breach of contract on their part since the terms should be interpreted in your fvor, but the language is not ambiguous. Failing to explicitly rule out a given scenario is not an ambiguity of language. The part where the ticket-collector tells you to bring the parent further clarifies that the requirement is not just that an adult approve the purchase of the ticket. Since a reasonable person would understand that the contract requires the adult to remain with the minors, and you / he didn't do that, you breached the contract.

The refund policy may or may not be relevant (it states "No refunds after printed showtime", so it depends on what the printed showtime was and when this took place). Their basis for denying a refund would be that you breached the contract. If you sued them for a refund, the court might find that they had not been harmed by your violating the terms of the contract, but then again they might find in favor of the theater. There are substantive reasons for this policy and by breaching the terms of the contract, you put the company at risk.

  • "Incidentally, the refund policy also states 'No refunds after printed showtime', so clearly you don't get a refund." - But the OP said this happened "before the movie even started" so I don't see how that's relevant. – D M Dec 9 '18 at 21:04
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    ... the one that literally says "A few minutes later before the movie even started"? – D M Dec 9 '18 at 21:42
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    On another note, I'm not convinced that, just because the theater has a website which has a tooltip stating their R-rated policy, the tooltip becomes part of a legally binding contract, especially if the person is buying the tickets in person and not through the website. And even if it is, it's not clear why the appropriate remedy is for the theater to keep the money while not providing any service. – D M Dec 9 '18 at 21:59
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    It seems clear that the theater was within its rights to remove underage persons from an R-rated film. But no one has cited any source that allows them to keep the ticket price. When a contract is terminated, the more usual practice is to return everyone to the status quo ante if possible. Perhaps there is state law or caselaw on this? – David Siegel Dec 9 '18 at 22:03
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    The policy quoted requires "accompanying parent or adult guardian". But does "accompanying " mean the adult must watch the film, or merely be present at the ticket purchase so that the adult knows of and approves the attendance of the minors? That seems to me an ambiguity to be resolved against the theater company since it wrote the contract. – David Siegel Dec 9 '18 at 22:07
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The Motion Picture Association of America gives ratings to films, and a rating of R means

... Restricted, with no one under 17 admitted without an accompanying parent or guardian. This rating is given for strong and frequent language and violence, nudity for sexual purposes and drug abuse.

The cinema has an obvious argument against allowing you to stay. It was clear that the presence of a parent was necessary to be allowed entry, and without that parent, you were not allowed to be in the theatre.

Had they not removed you, there is just as good a chance they were in breach of a policy, regulation or prior contract related to who they may show films to.

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    Nothing in the quote indicates that a guardian has to watch the movie with you. Just that you will only be admitted with one present. It says nothing about what happens after you are admitted. So I disagree that "it was clear that ... without that parent you were not allowed to be in the theatre" – Matt Jul 21 '17 at 3:18
  • "Had they not removed you, there is just as good a chance they were in breach of a policy, regulation or prior contract related to who they may show films to" - That may be true, but that's not the OP's problem. – D M Dec 9 '18 at 21:22
  • It is if it makes their contract (viewing film in exchange for money) illegal and therefore void... @DM – Nij Dec 10 '18 at 8:54
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    @Nij Yeah, but it's not (and probably can't be) actually illegal. There would be First Amendment issues if the government purported to restrict what minors could watch based on a private organization's say so. – D M Dec 10 '18 at 11:25
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    "Had they not removed you, there is just as good a chance they were in breach of a policy, regulation or prior contract related to who they may show films to." They would no doubt be in breach of an internal policy, but it is unlikely that they would have violated any regulation or prior contract related to who they ay show films to. The MPAA standards are voluntary unlike prior censorship codes in various media (the infamous "Comic Code" was another). Unless a court found the content to be "obscene" (almost impossible for a rated R film) they would not be violating any law or regulation. – ohwilleke Jan 8 '19 at 23:56
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One of the conditions of contract that you accepted when you bought tickets to an R rated movie is that you would be accompanied by an adult throughout the screening.

You broke the contract. In response, the cinema terminated the contract. You are not entitled to a refund.

  • "the cinema terminated the contract" - But in the absence of any contract, what gives the theater the right to keep the money? – D M Dec 11 '18 at 11:24
  • What do you mean “in the absence of any contract”? You pay, they provide a service - that’s a contract. – Dale M Dec 11 '18 at 20:11
  • There's an absence after the termination. – D M Dec 12 '18 at 2:22
  • If there was a contract with these terms then you are correct. It isn't entirely clear what the terms of the contract actually are in this case. – ohwilleke Jan 8 '19 at 23:53
  • If the terms of the contract are unclear or ambiguous, they should be interpreted in favor of the teens and against the theater, who made the rules in the first place. – David Thornley Jan 9 '19 at 18:59

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