Concerned parents and psychologists can debate how small children will withstand the intense violence in Jurassic Park all they wish. At least one 6-year-old boy in Largo decided the issue for himself and a parent this week.
Maria Monteverde, manager of the AMC Tri-City 8 theaters, said the unidentified boy urged his mother to leave a Monday screening when the dinosaurs in Steven Spielberg's thriller began to stomp and chomp.
"The kid was scared," Monteverde recalled. "He actually didn't want to stay and see it."
Since the feature had barely begun, Monteverde gave the parent a refund and probably saved the child from a few nightmares. Most small children at her theater have made it through Jurassic Park without any immediate problems.
"A lot of little kids cover their eyes," said Monteverde. "This is not one of those cutesy dinosaur movies by any stretch of the imagination."
The violence in Jurassic Park and its possible negative effect on children has been a hot topic since the dinosaur epic opened last week to record-setting business. Critics and consumer film guides have cautioned parents about its suspenseful, occasionally horrific scenes of prehistoric monsters run amok.
The Times Family Film Guide, which appears Mondays in the PG section, recommends Jurassic Park only for viewers older than 10.
Across the nation, there have been scattered protests, particularly against commercial products _ including toys, clothing and foodstuffs _ with Jurassic Park ties that are marketed for children. A 6-year-old in Minneapolis, Alex Boyd, is reportedly rounding up support from his peers to boycott the products since the PG-13 movie is declared off-limits by parental decision.
By Thursday, there were reports of complaints about the film's violence from parents and children in Cleveland and Los Angeles.
An informal survey of several Tampa Bay theaters revealed that parents are generally shielding very young children from seeing Jurassic Park, citing publicity about the film's violence. Many parents are attending screenings with children to help them feel secure. Plenty of preteens attend without adult supervision.
Here is a sampling of comments from children and parents in the bay area on the issue of violence in Jurassic Park and whether it is suitable for children:
"Children think this is another dinosaur thing like Barney, but I think this is Barney with too many vitamins." _ Virginia Bracken, Belleair Beach, who waited outside a theater while her 16-year-old daughter Kiera watched the movie.
"Some kids might be scared. Some of the parts were pretty gory." _ Kiera Bracken, 16, Belleair Beach
"I personally don't like a lot of violence, but I suppose it was all right for my kids to see." _ Jearldine Burrow, St. Petersburg.
"It should only be seen by older people; I guess (starting at) ages 12 or 13 years old." _ Ben Bevilackqua, 13, St. Petersburg.
"I think it was a bit too violent for even me to see. My kids didn't seem to be affected, though. Maybe (it's) because they see it so much on TV everyday." _ Joe Attenello, St. Petersburg.
"This movie should be seen by kids (who) understand the difference between what is real and what is not." _ Katie Everlove, 12, St. Petersburg.
"Our boys don't watch TV, so they're not acclimated to violence. If (a child) is easily frightened, it's probably not for them." _ Rosemary Hanes, Palm Harbor, whose 10-year-old sons say they enjoyed Jurassic Park.
Sylvia Peluso, Oldsmar, spoke as she brought 9-year-old son Kevin to Jurassic Park: "He has two friends the same age who saw it. They said they had to close their eyes a few times, but it was a cool movie. I'm willing to give it a try. There's too much publicity to avoid it."
_ Times staff writer KANIKA JELKS contributed to this story