Movie Chain Adds Children’s Playground to Theaters (But It’s Not Quite as Crazy as It Sounds)

Image source: Cinepolis

Major movie theater chain Cinépolis has announced that they will be opening new auditoriums featuring children’s playgrounds.

In what was described by one Twitter user as “the ninth circle of hell,” the theaters have a 55-foot long and 25-foot high “play structure” inside the auditorium itself. “Cinépolis Junior” is making its debut at the Cinépolis Riveria and Cinépolis Vista in Southern California this week — complete with colorful slides, tire climbers, bean bags, and lounge chairs.

I will confess that I was originally on board with the Twitter haters — the very idea of kids running wild while I’m trying to relax and watch the latest Gosling offering does not fill me joy. I mean, I tend to go to the movies to get away from my own children. But it turns out we all jumped to conclusions. In truth, kids ages 3-12 are only allowed to roam around and enjoy the soft play activities before the film starts.

Cinépolis’ public relations representative MJ Salcido tellsBabble:

“The kids may enjoy the play areas 20 minutes before the showing begins. Parents will supervise their children while they are playing and getting the wiggles out. At the 20 minute mark, a Cinépolis cartoon character will pop up on the screen and ask everyone to take their seat.”

Image source: Cinepolis

The idea is that kids will exhaust themselves and then sprawl out on beanbags and lounge seats and be angels while Mom and Dad enjoy the age-appropriate film (PG or G rate only). Sounds great, right?

Well, what if there is a willful 2-year-old who hasn’t had his or her fill of playtime and wants to carry on thrashing around the jungle gym? Or a kid who has a meltdown because she can’t have another turn on the slide? Twenty minutes isn’t that long for kids to exhaust themselves before being asked to sit still.

That, I don’t have an answer to.

But there will also be coloring sheets and crayons for the kids to play with and an awesome kid’s food menu (sign me up for the zebra popcorn, the grilled cheese sandwiches, and a vanilla shake!).

While this is the first time Americans have seen something like this, the idea started in Mexico with Cinépolis Sala Junior and it was so popular that they eventually expanded to Spain, Costa Rica, and Guatemala.

Any parent who might be worried about how safe it is needn’t be. In designing the structure, Cinépolis USA worked with the company’s play equipment vendor on indoor playground regulations for the state of California. Any adults watching a movie in the Cinépolis Junior auditoriums must be accompanied by a child 12 and under — so as a parent, you are surrounded by people all in the same boat as you.

Meanwhile, there are also safety rules in place to make sure no accidents occur — there is a height restriction so kids must be between a minimum height of 3 feet and maximum height of 5 feet. Children must be supervised by an adult at all times and no one is allowed to wear shoes. Only one child at a time is allowed on the slide and food and drinks are not allowed in the play area or in the play structure. Pretty standard rules for those of us who have taken their kids to any kind of soft play area.

Image source: Cinepolis

The concept isn’t far off from parent and baby screenings, which I found to be a godsend when both my kids were babies. Being a film junkie, I was desperate to get to see all the latest films but too exhausted to see them in the evening. A daytime screening where my baby went to sleep and I relaxed and watched the film was perfect for me. Sadly, as soon as my babies could crawl and run around, I wasn’t able to go anymore.

Which is why I think Cinépolis Junior is a clever idea. Exhausted toddlers may well sleep through the film if they have had a runaround beforehand. Those who think that parents should just let their kids run wild at the park instead of paying extra for this experience need not stress — the introductory cost starts at only $1 more than a regular Cinépolis theatre.

The idea of a playground in a movie theater is just another example of companies taking advantage of the fact that parents are willing to spend extra dollars to give their kids unique and new experiences. For every parent who has a child who will quietly during a movie, there will be one who spent the whole time chasing their wee one around the theatre. The company hopes Cinépolis Junior will be “a space where parents feel at ease and kids feel right in their element as they watch their new favorite film.” CEO of Cinépolis USA, Adrian Mijares Elizondo’s added, “To help new guests fall in love with movies is our goal, and to do it in a way that caters to every need is our mission.”

While the movie snob in me initially thought this concept was nothing short of horror, I must admit the more I read about it, the more I became a convert. Any experience that encourages children to love film is cool with me. So Cinépolis, when are you coming to the UK?

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