The cinema has taken a beating in the last few years. Admission sales are down, despite a rise in individual ticket prices. Netflix and other streaming services are eating into the profit margins. Why should a family of four spend $50 just get in the door to see a film when it’ll be available in their home within months? Desperate theater chains have tried everything from luxury experiences to flirting with the idea of allowing movie goers to text. Some of these ideas — plush seating and craft beer — are good. Some — texting during a joint movie-experience that costs a small fortune you rude jerks — are bad.
But nothing seems as breathtakingly awful as the newest venture by Mexico-based movie theater chain Cinepolis. According to the The Los Angeles Times, the company is set to open two new kid-oriented theaters. In theory, that sounds great. Corral the tiny loud humans into a single theater where they can’t ruin pivotal movie moments with any number of disruptive behaviors in their repertoire. In practice, it means Cinepolis is adding jungle gyms inside the theater. Yes. Jungle gyms.
As a parent, let me say: This is a terrible idea. Cinepolis hopes the chain — which has already opened similar venues in Mexico — will make kids feel welcome and comfortable. Or, as Cinepolis USA Chief Executive Adrian Mijares Elizondo says, “The whole idea is to make it easier for parents to take their kids to the movies and let the kids have more fun.” Cinepolis doesn’t specify if the kids will be allowed to play on the jungle gym equipment during the film or only before and after (and perhaps during an intermission). But they are considering leaving the house lights up throughout the runtime, which indicates they anticipate the siren call of climbing webs and slides will be too much for kids to resist. This means parents will be paying an extra $3 a head to have a movie playing as background noise while their kids run around for two hours, shrieking and having a good time that would’ve been cheaper if they’d just gone to Chuck E. Cheese instead.
Now if you have kids, you know that taking them to the movies can be a treat or an ordeal. Sometimes both. Between ticket prices, snack prices, finding the booster seat in the “right” color, and picking the perfect aisle that isn’t too close to the screen nor too high up, there are a lot of hurdles to cross before the house lights even go down. But once they do, that’s when the memories are made. Part of parenting is teaching your spawn how to behave in social situations. At a movie theater, you sit quietly and enjoy the collective experience of witnessing magic on the silver screen with like-minded strangers. You aren’t in your living room. There is no shouting, no throwing things, no crawling over the seats like a monkey. If your kids aren’t old enough for a 90 minutes an animated sing-a-long to hold their attention, they aren’t old enough to go to the movies.
Sorry. But these are the rules agreed upon by our society. And if you don’t like it, maybe you should’ve thought of that before you chained yourself to the care of another human being for 18 years.