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Under 17 not admitted without R-card

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Jordan Delgadillo adores the "Matrix" trilogy. But the 16-year-old sophomore in Peoria, Ill. - who one day hopes to be a filmmaker - had to wait until the last two movies were out on video before he got to see them. It's not that his grandmother - his legal guardian - has a problem with the films. She just didn't want to sit through them herself, and the movies are rated R.

But these days, Jordan can watch any R-rated film at the local theater thanks to a ready-made permission slip he carries with him.

The R-card, a controversial new offering from GKC Theatres, gives his grandmother's approval in the form of her signature, and his days of getting shut out of films like "Dreamcatcher" are over.

"He's a good kid, and we communicate beautifully," says Joyce Needham, Jordan's grandmother. If he were going to see sex-filled movies, she might not have agreed to the card, she says. "But it's the action he loves.... They've done me a huge favor by allowing us to do this."

But not everyone looks favorably upon the card. Since its debut in a Washington, Ill., theater last October, the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), which issues movie ratings, has spoken out against the card, as have other groups.

The purpose of that system - voluntarily enforced by theaters - is to give parents warnings about specific films so that they can discuss them and make informed judgments about a film's suitability for their child, says Jack Valenti, president of the MPAA. That process is circumvented because the card lumps all R-rated films together.

"To give a blanket card to a child to see any R film they want intrudes on what the rating system is about, which is parental approval of individual films," says Mr. Valenti. "It's not in the long-term best interest of parents unless they have a very casual regard for what movies their children are seeing."

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