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Mix alcohol and movies with caution

Mix alcohol and movies with caution

Allowing alcohol in dark movie theater poses potential problems for patrons, staff

Gather up some inconsiderate, cell-phone-talking jerks. Mingle in some teenagers and little kids. Put them in a dark place with notoriously lax supervision.

Now add alcohol.

It sounds like it could be a recipe for problems, at least if you're someone who spends $20 for a ticket and simply wants to enjoy a movie in a movie theater without being disturbed.

Still, that’s not stopping some members of the state Legislature from pushing to expand sales of alcohol to movie theaters. Under the bill (A9360/S8097), movie theaters that are prohibited from selling alcohol under current restrictions would have those restrictions eased.

The justification for the bill is economical. Movie attendance has been waning in recent years, as many people are finding it cheaper and more pleasant to stay home with Redbox, Pay Per View, HBO and subscription services like Netflix.

Sponsors of the bill say it will generate $2 million in additional taxes for the state, help boost movie theater attendance, create construction jobs for theaters that modify their facilities to sell alcohol, and provide more revenue to hire employees under the new $15 minimum wage.

If the state is going in this direction, and it looks like it is, it needs to make special considerations for movie theaters.

Sports arenas and concert venues that serve alcohol are often better patrolled by security and better lit than movie theaters. Even concerts aren't totally dark. A movie theater requires darkness.

One concern: How are theaters going to prevent adults from sharing their beers with their younger patrons, especially when it's so hard to see them in the dark? Are they going to shine their little flashlights in everyone's faces more often?

Another thought: People don't expect complete silence and good behavior from other patrons at concerts and games. But it's really, really hard to enjoy a movie when someone is yapping away. Alcohol often makes people more talkative, louder and more obnoxious. Sure most people will sit in their seats and quietly sip their wine without disturbing others. But what about those who don't?

Concerts and sporting events also often have better security than movie theaters. How much harder is a movie usher's job going to be shushing someone who's had a few beers?

Will theaters have to hire only employees who are 18 years and older because of age restrictions on who can serve alcohol? Will police need to be on-site?

We're not saying don't do it. Given the generally positive anecdotal experiences in other states that now allow it, the concerns associated with this are probably somewhat overstated.

But before the state just starts issuing liquor licenses to movie theaters, it should recognize and respect the unique circumstances involved in allowing alcohol to be served in movie theaters vs. other venues.

The state needs to require theaters put on more security, impose strict limits on who can be served and when, require IDs from all members of a party, and routinely check for abuses. Maybe even require they cordon off specific seats in the theater where alcohol can be consumed as a way to limit abuses.

Everyone should be able to enjoy their movie experience equally. Adding alcohol to the mix has the potential to drive more people to Netflix if the law isn't implemented with great forethought and consideration of its impacts.

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