This article by Virginia Postrel for Forbes was getting a lot of attention over at r/movies last night. The comments were filled with stories about young children ruining the movie going experience for those around them. In the article, Postrel recounts her experience seeing Atomic Blonde:
“ 'Is that a man?' a tiny voice asked as the camera homed in on [Charlize] Theron’s bruised and battered back rising from a bathtub filled with ice cubes.
...this little boy was simply confused. Theron got out of the tub -- clearly not a man -- and poured a glass of vodka. 'Is that water?' he asked."
"...the mere presence of children too young to understand a movie disturbs other audience members. After some shushing, the little boy quieted down. But like watching a sex scene with your parents, knowing he was there was distracting."
Having been the patron of a theater dirupted by an underage child, and as a former theater employee, I too would be frustrated if two asshats brought their children to see a movie inappropriate for their age. Postrel contends that theaters should remove the children's pricing option for R-rated films, going as far to suggest that theaters charge more for a child's ticket than they would for an adult ticket. Ultimately, she argues, this could help solve the problem of the disruptive child.
The theater I 'briefly' worked at did charge adult admission for underage attendees of R-rated films. It didn't stop the problem.
For every parent with a young child turned off by the pricing, there would be one who didn't care and would buy the ticket anyway. On top of that, we can't forget the parents who would attempt to forget the "accompanied by a parent or guardian" rule, and drop their kids off to see Deadpool while pretending the theater was an air conditioned babysitting substitute. And, more often than it ever should have happened, a parents would throw a hissy-fit in our lobby when we wouldn't let their children in unaccompanied or after we had kicked the children out of the theater after we had watched the very same parent sneak out after the movie started.
The problem isn't children, it's the audience in general. Theaters need movies that bring in a large audience to make money, but a large audience filled with children, movie-talkers, and cell phone users is helping drive away the very people theaters hope to attract. For a large multiplex like an AMC or Regal, it's a no-win scenario.