President Clinton's Remarks to the National Association of Theater Owners

Office of the Press Secretary

For Immediate Release June 8, 1999


The Roosevelt Room

1:55 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon. Please be seated.

Ladies and gentlemen, I hope you won't be confused when I tell you that I have just met with the representatives of NATO, and we talked about the movies. (Laughter.) I am, of course, referring to a somewhat different NATO than we usually discuss around here -- the National Association of Theater Owners.

We had a very good discussion, and I want to thank NATO President, Bill Kartozian, and his colleagues who are here with him, for the efforts they are making to make sure that we work together to prevent youth violence, and the ways the theater industry, in particular, can help in that cause.

It has been less than two months since the tragedy at Columbine High School seared itself into our national consciousness. Ever since that day, our country has been moving steadily away from a culture of youth violence, toward creating the kind of future we want for our children. People from all walks of life are coming together in a national grass-roots campaign to prevent youth violence, to give our children the childhoods they deserve.

We all know that parents are the first and most important influences on their children, but we know, too, that the demands on them are increasing, and as more and more parents work outside the home, they have less and less time with their children. On average, families now have a life in which parents spend about 22 hours a week less at home than parents did a generation ago. Over the 18 years of a child's childhood, that amounts to more than two years time.

Since my first days as President, we have worked hard to help parents better balance the demands of home and work. One of the ways we've tried to do that is to give parents better tools to make immediate but informed judgments about the shows their children watch, the music they hear, the video games they play. We've worked hard to give parents new tools like the V-chip, which by the end of next month will be in half the new television sets sold in America, and will help parents to block violent programming from their living rooms. We've also made progress on parental screening for the Internet and ratings for Internet game sites.

But we must do more. We must ensure that children are not the targets of violence in marketing. That's why last week I asked the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission to study the extent to which the video game, movie and music industries market violence to children, and whether those industries are abiding by their own voluntary systems of regulation.

For rating systems to work, they must also be enforced, not simply by watchful parents, but by retailers at the point of sales, and theater owners at the multiplex. The great thing about the multiplex is that there's a movie for every member of the family, but not ever movie is for every member of the family. When you drop them off, you shouldn't have to worry about your G-rated kids getting into violent or suggestive R-rated movies. Too often children do get past the ticket counter, unescorted and under-age.

I'm pleased to announce today the theater owners are clearly drawing the line. The nation's largest group of theater owners has asked -- has agreed to ask young people for IDs at R-rated movies. From now on, parents will know that the R-rating means what it is supposed to mean -- restricted, no one under 17 without a parent or guardian, and no exceptions.

Last month when I challenged the theater owners to step up to this responsibility I could only have hoped that they would respond so quickly. So, again, let me applaud Bill Kartozian, his organization and all their members for doing their part. I know we have parents here representing the PTA, and I want to thank them for coming, and I know they join me in applauding this action.

Let me also say that I hope that, as the recess ends, the Congress will do its part. Next week, the House will take up important legislation already passed by the Senate to help prevent youth violence by common-sense measures to keep guns out of the hands of children. They closed the deadly gun show loophole, required that safety locks be sold with every handgun, banned the importation of large-capacity ammunition clips, and banned violent juveniles from owning guns as adults. I strongly urge the House not to riddle this legislation with loopholes, or to delay, but to pass the law and pass it quickly.

Let me also say I hope others will follow the lead of the theater owners. In our growing national campaign to prevent youth violence, none can stand aside. None should stand in the way. In the weeks and months ahead, we will continue to move forward as one nation, striving to build that better future we all want for our children.

Now, I'd like to ask Bill Kartozian to tell us more about the steps the theater owners have agreed to take. Let's give him a big hand.

Mr. Kartozian. (Applause.)

* * * * *

Q Mr. President, are you optimistic on Kosovo?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, I'm hopeful. You know, we're going to have -- we've got to have the military meeting and work out the details. But the G-8 statement is good.

Q And how quickly could the peacekeepers go in, do you think?

THE PRESIDENT: Well, they're working out the details -- I hope shortly, we will know.

Thank you. (Applause.)

END 2:03 P.M. EDT


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