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Regal to Rid Its Theater Lobbies of Violent or Sexual Video Games

September 20, 2003|Leslie Earnest | Times Staff Writer

Moviegoers looking for sex and violence at a Regal Entertainment Group cinema soon won't be able to stop for a quick fix in the lobby on the way to the big screen.

The nation's largest movie theater operator said Friday that it would ban video games that feature graphic violence or sexual behavior or "obscene or foul language of any kind" from its 562 movie houses.

Regal's theaters, like most in the United States, are replete with coin-operated arcade-style video game terminals.

The Knoxville, Tenn.-based company, which operates the Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres chains, said it was responding to complaints from a key constituency -- parents.

"Parents of our younger moviegoers have concerns about the content of certain video games," Chief Executive Mike Campbell said in a statement.

"We want to do the best job in evaluating which video games are acceptable by the majority of our patrons," he added.

Regal has begun ejecting the offending games, which were in about 90% of its theaters. The effort should be complete by year's end, spokesman Dick Westerling said.

He declined to name the video games being hauled out, but said the company had identified about 30 that it considered inappropriate. "Most of the 30 were currently in our theaters," Westerling added.

They will be replaced with video games that are deemed suitable according to the company's new guidelines. Company managers will vet all games.

Westerling drew a distinction between graphic or violent video games and movies.

For one thing, he said, it's easy for a theater to monitor who gets into an R-rated movie, because the ticket holder needs to be 17 or older or be accompanied by an adult.

But it's not so simple to keep track of arcade game users.

"The lobby area is comprised of patrons going to the variety of movies at the theaters, consisting of all the ratings G through R," Westerling said.

Regal said it would not stock games showing "graphic depictions of sexual behavior or nudity," "graphically violent character deaths" or "human-like characters suffering bloodshed and/or dismemberment." It also will ban games featuring violence toward law enforcement officers or other figures of authority or the "glorification of illegal activity."

Said CEO Campbell: "Placement of certain video games is not conducive to the overall environment we strive to achieve."

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