It started in Mexico, evidently:
It’s hard for young children to sit still for two hours, and that can turn a trip to the movies into an ordeal for parents. So what if the solution were to let the kids play at the cinema? Mexico-based movie theater chain Cinepolis is betting it can lure more families back to the multiplex with its new in-theater playground concept, Cinepolis Junior, which makes its U.S. debut at two Southern California locations next week. The remodeled auditoriums at Cinepolis USA’s Pico Rivera and Vista theaters each feature a colorful play area near the screen in front of the seats, a jungle gym, and cushy beanbag chairs. Cinepolis, the world’s fourth-largest cinema operator, hopes the new kid-oriented theaters — which charge up to $3 more than a regular ticket — will help it better compete with Netflix and other at-home options by enticing more parents and children to go to the theater. Designed for ages 3 to 12, the two children’s auditoriums open March 16 to screen Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” remake. “It’s really intended to make kids feel welcome and comfortable,” said Cinepolis USA Chief Executive Adrian Mijares Elizondo. “The whole idea is to make it easier for parents to take their kids to the movies and let the kids have more fun.”
Among other things, this means kids don’t have to sit still, don’t have to behave themselves, don’t have to pay attention to what is happening on the big screen if they don’t want to. The human mind, already fractured into a dozen pieces with distractions like cell phones, can now enjoy being even more distracted during the shared communal experience of attending a movie.
That noise you hear—above the squeals of children on the jungle gym—is civilization, going down the drain.
And sooner or later, just watch: someone will start adapting this to church settings. Crying rooms will become play rooms. Kids will be allowed to frolic while scripture is being read and the Eucharist is being consecrated. (I know: this is happening already, in one way or another, as kids crawl around the church and sip from juice boxes during Mass; but stuff like this could encourage it and give silent—or not so silent—assent.)
Once upon a time, not so very long ago, parents took children out to theaters or restaurants or church and, along with that, set expectations. You had to sit and behave. You had to keep your elbows off the table. You had to mind your manners. This is how you learned.
I wonder what kids are learning now.
Photo: The Los Angeles Times