The last time I saw an NC-17 film in theaters (Shame, 2011), an usher had to walk through the theater every once and awhile with a flashlight of sorts, which I assumed was to ensure no 17-and-unders had snuck in to watch. Is this a MPAA law? Or is it a state law in Georgia? Or is it just a very diligent art house theater?

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    It's very unlikely that the usher was looking for underage people, since that would require checking IDs. Much more likely that they were looking out for inappropriate behavior, such as excessive physical affection, smoking, and so forth. It's possible they were even responding to complaints from patrons about such behavior.
    – barbecue
    Dec 4, 2014 at 0:54

1 Answer 1


I'm not American and can't give legal advice, but I'd strongly suspect this was just a diligent movie theatre.

Cinemas are not legally bound by these ratings. They are simply recommendations made by the NPAA and seconded by the National Association of Theater Owners. To quote from the article linked:

In the MPAA's official Classification and Ratings Rules, all the sanctions aimed at violators deal with the companies that release films, not the theaters that show them.

“The rating system is voluntary, but we strongly encourage theaters to enforce the rating age restrictions as applied to any movie,” a NATO spokesperson told theWrap.

Therefore, there are no binding laws on the cinema in the first place, regardless of the film's certificate. I would suspect this is simply a diligent movie theater being careful about who they have allowed into the cinema. Alternatively, they could be checking for other things, including empty seats (for latecomers), ticket scalps, anyone recording in the film or other such things.

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    "a NATO spokesperson" - Whoa, it seems the MPAA takes those rules pretty serious. ;-)
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Dec 3, 2014 at 20:21
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    @NapoleonWilson: Wars have been fought I tell you! Dec 3, 2014 at 20:21
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    @AndrewMartin ... I think what may have been going on was an usher checking the exit doors for safety. I see it happen in some theaters, yet not in others. I'm sure it depends on how "hi-tech" their security systems are. On the other hand (pun intended), since this was an NC-17 rated movie, they may have been patrolling to ensure nothing too much was going on in the audience, if you get my drift, lol. Dec 3, 2014 at 23:27
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    @Paulster2: I get your drift. My sister, who used to work as a cinema usher, definitely would get your drift. Happens more than people think. Dec 3, 2014 at 23:29
  • As much as I hated growing up in small-town middle-America, one perk we had was that the local theater never cared to enforce any of the ratings.
    – DA.
    Feb 27, 2015 at 6:36

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