Originally created 12/30/98

Cinema ends ban on R-rated films



SPARTANBURG, S.C. -- A theater owner who garnered national attention when he stopped showing R-rated movies has backed off his moral stand against violence because it is costing him too much money.

"We had vocal support, but people were just not showing up to see the movies. If the public doesn't want it, who am I doing it for?" said David Crenshaw, who estimated he has lost $20,000 at his seven-screen second-run theater.

"I thought people cared more. Apparently they don't much care," he said Monday. "The letdown I experienced after that national exposure alone was not worth it. I don't want to sit here and go broke."

Crenshaw Cinema's ban on R-rated films began Aug. 12 and stirred a media firestorm across the country.

It was featured in USA Today, mentioned on Paul Harvey's syndicated radio show and featured in The National Enquirer.

After the first month, attendance dropped from 2,000 to 1,200 customers a week. Profits were off 50 percent in November and 32 percent in December from a year ago, Mr. Crenshaw said.

"This whole thing has left me really rather cynical," he said.

Mr. Crenshaw said he decided about a week ago to drop the ban, figuring people didn't appreciate his efforts.

The number of R-rated films will vary from week to week, starting Friday with Why Do Fools Fall in Love?

Mr. Crenshaw said he got only four phone calls in response to his November mailing of 370 letters to area churches.

"According to his letter, he said he was not going to go back," said Pastor Troy Gregg of Chesnee First Baptist, who said he was disappointed Mr. Crenshaw would bring back R-rated movies. "He said he would close down first. That was my understanding. That was what impressed me so much."

When Mr. Crenshaw first made his stand, he did vow to reject R-rated movies even if he went bankrupt.

"I did say that," he said Monday. "But I changed my mind. I enjoy the business too much. I probably would have to go bankrupt if I continued the ban. You can't make people want something they don't want."

Motion Picture Association of America President Jack Valenti said he had never heard of a theater not showing R-rated films.

At the time, the group had rated 262 movies, giving 162 an R-rating.

"It does not surprise me that (Mr. Crenshaw) did not get support," Mr. Gregg said. "As a minister for 35 years, I have had to deal with this kind of disappointment all the time. Basically, people say they want morals, but they want it for everybody but themselves."

Movie ratingsAccording to Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc., of this year's 20 top-grossing movies:Four were rated R.Eleven were rated PG-13.Two were rated PG.Three were rated G.