The controversy over violence in movies and video games seems to be swirling everywhere but at store level.
But while participants in SN's annual video roundtable reported no complaints from their customers about the products, many have taken steps to make sure the rating system is enforced.
"I have not heard anything from any store. Nothing at all," said Bill Glaseman, video specialist at Bashas', Phoenix.
"The controversy over media violence has not affected our rentals or revenue," said Bob Gettner, video buyer and coordinator at B & R Stores, Lincoln, Neb. "Just recently, I sent a notice out to all of our stores saying that IDs will be required for people who look under 20," he said.
"We have always been sensitive to the violence in movies, because we are a family-owned grocery store," said Laura Fisher, video coordinator and merchandising associate at Martin's Super Markets, South Bend, Ind. "Our customers, therefore, don't expect us to carry that type of product."
The participants also agreed that the entertainment companies are not being treated fairly for a problem that has many causes. The main responsibility for policing children's consumption of movies and games is with the parents, the retailers agreed.
"The studios are just producing the products that the customer wants," said Darlene Kiefer, services coordinator at Seaway Food Town, Maumee, Ohio. "If the customer weren't buying it, if there weren't a market for it, Hollywood wouldn't produce it. So I don't think you can blame it on Hollywood. It all falls back on each individual customer."
Here is what the roundtable participants said about violence in the entertainment media:
SN: What impact has the controversy over violent movie and game content had on your business?
Gettner: The controversy over media violence has not affected our rentals or revenue. Just recently, I sent a notice out to all of our stores saying that IDs will be required for people who look under 20. Anyone under 17 will not be allowed to rent R-rated titles, whether or not their parents gave them permission. Parents will have to be present for their kids to rent an R-rated movie. This also will be true for video games above G. We want to be a step ahead. We want to make sure that we're doing the things that should be done to protect families and their children before the government says that we have to do it.
Hopefully, most of our customer base will understand our policy. I do expect some criticism from some who want their kids to be able to rent without them being present. In doing this, we are looking out for our own interests, but we are looking out for our customers as well.
Fisher: We have always been sensitive to the violence in movies, because we are a family-owned grocery store. Our customers, therefore, don't expect us to carry that type of product. We have to be very careful in what we carry in our stores. The merchandising department, myself included, looks at the movies before we bring them in, especially if it's a questionable title, like "Natural Born Killers." That title would have caused us more grief and aggravation than the revenues we would have made off of it.
We do get complaints all the time. Customers have complained about magazines, for example. And on rare occasions, a few have complained to us about not bringing in a title. We had one guy tell us we censored product. Another gentleman wrote in to a local newspaper saying he was upset because we didn't have "Boogie Nights." But at the same time, others wrote in to say they respect Martins for not bringing in that movie. We try to find a happy medium. But when we make decisions, we stand by them.
Glaseman: Operating in a family-oriented market, I monitor rental product closely and don't go beyond an R rating. On a few occasions, there is a really good rental title, and we'll add an adult-content label to protect ourselves from complaints.
Most movies being released contain strong language, sex and guns to appeal to theatergoers and home viewers. I feel that less of these things will not harm the viewability of the movie. Also, I've noticed an increased use of cigarettes in movies recently. Continued pressure on the studios might cause them to clean up their act. That's what's probably going to have to happen.
Kiefer: As a supermarket buyer, I've always been protective of our family image. So I've tried not to bring in any terrible movies. But sometimes you can't help it -- some of the hits are violent. You have to bring some of them in. But if we feel the violence or sexual content in a movie is too graphic, we do have special signs that point that out. So this recent concern hasn't really affected us that much.
SN: Have you had any additional customer comments or complaints about the violent movies since the Littleton [Colo.] shooting?
Glaseman: I have not heard anything from any store. Nothing at all.
Kiefer: I haven't heard any.
Gettner: As far as the violence issue, no. I haven't really heard anybody say anything to me about it.
Fisher: Since we haven't brought in any questionable video titles, there haven't been any complaints.