Theater should be allowed to serve alcohol

<p>Manager, Elvia Jimenez at the bar in the lobby of the AMC Lake in the Hills 12 Theater. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media</p>

Manager, Elvia Jimenez at the bar in the lobby of the AMC Lake in the Hills 12 Theater. | Brian O'Mahoney/For Sun-Times Media

The people who run movie theaters have to be an adaptable lot. If production companies decide not to distribute movies on film, which is probably wise given the lifetime of film, theater owners have to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in digital projectors. Fortunately, both regular theaters and drive-ins have been doing that for the last couple of years so they can survive.

And whenever the habits of the movie-going public change, the theaters have to change with them. Most people probably don’t remember that, years ago, when it was time for “Amos and Andy” to come on the radio, theaters would stop the movie and pipe the radio broadcast into the theater. If they didn’t, nobody would go to the movies on that night.

Running a theater is a tough, low margin business, in which owners survive largely on the revenue from concessions. They have to give the fickle and petulant public what it wants. So if American Multi-Cinema believes the public wants to drink alcoholic beverages as they watch their movies, they certainly should be able to serve them.

I can see how it might be nice to enjoy a cold lager during an outdoor adventure, or a shaken martini during a Bond film. It’s pretty clear that the only way it might be possible for people of a certain sensibility to watch “Best Night Ever” would be if they first had a good strong drink. And what would go better with a romantic tear-jerker than a glass of red wine?

I can’t say that the availability of alcoholic beverages would make it any more or less likely for me personally to attend a cinema. But you know something? That doesn’t mean a darn thing. Whether or not to serve alcohol is a business decision that AMC has to make and live with. No one, not a citizen, a city staff member, or a councilman, has any business basing their regulatory decisions on whether that is a wise or foolish thing for the company to do.

And to those who wonder whether bringing in “booze” will ruin the family atmosphere that is a movie theater, all I can say is have you seen a movie recently? How could bringing liquor into a viewing of “Machete Kills” do anything but improve things? nd I’m absolutely certain the atmosphere in a theater where “Ride Along” or “Devil’s Due” was playing has absolutely nothing to do with anybody’s family. Will we never rise above this sanctimonious demonization of spirits? It is so childish.

Some people wonder whether a person who is old enough to drink will share his beverage with a companion who is not yet 21. Well, for one thing this doesn’t seem to be a problem in the six other AMC theaters in this area, and 63 theaters nationwide, that serve drinks, so is it that we believe Naperville people are simply less responsible than people in other places? If so, is it because we continually distrust and suspect them?

For another, this is a very low consumption situation, generally someone buying a single drink over a period of an hour and a half to two hours. Finally, should the person share his drink, it is he alone who has broken the law, just as though he brought a flask into the theater. That’s something people don’t seem to do either.

So it would appear to me that the right thing to do would be to give AMC its license, thank them for running a successful business and investing in our town, and to wish them luck with their new concession. The wrong thing to do would be to make that success less likely by forcing AMC to card people my age, and make grown men and women wear insulting wristbands. You’d think the council would understand that.