The lights are low. The drama on the screen is becoming intense. The music swells. The heroine wipes away a tear and turns to the camera. And all of a sudden, you hear: “I want the popcorn! I waaaaant it! Miiiiiiinnnne!”Unsplash/Krists Luhaers
Is it any wonder that the topic of children in movie theaters tends to make people angry?
As user shakesbeer wrote on Mumsnet, something similar recently happened to her at an 8:30 p.m. showing of “The Greatest Showman”:
Just as Jenny Lind was about to sing “Never Enough” — which for anyone who has seen will known its one of those jaw dropping moments that leaves you in awe covered in goosebumps (for many at least) when two young children start playing up and arguing and not quietly.
This was my [third time] seeing it but I felt so irritated for those who hadn’t. It completely ruined the atmosphere of the moment.
What shakesbeer wants to know is whether she’s unreasonable to “feel like night showings should be childfree.” She added:
I know some may say that their parents must’ve really wanted to see it and perhaps couldn’t afford a babysitter but why not go on a weekend? And if it was the children who really wanted to see it I can’t quite believe that no other times would’ve suited them.
If you’re being unreasonable, it’s only because you’re giving people at earlier movie showings a pass. As far as I know, no movie theater welcomes people to 3 p.m. showings by asking whether they wish to sit in the non-sippy cup section. People who have to get up early in the morning still want to be able to hear Meryl Streep whisper her dying words.
And little kids have a genius for inconvenient timing. Whether it’s wanting to use the bathroom the moment you’ve put them in a snowsuit, gloves, and boots or wanting to use the bathroom at the world’s sketchiest gas station when you’re pretty sure there’s a drug deal going down in one stall and a pack of wolves hiding around the corner … my point is that kids only use the bathroom when it’s a hassle.
It’s part of the Kid Code. The one that requires toddlers who happily ate spinach noodles two days earlier to react as though you’re trying to feed them spider legs dipped in arsenic when you serve it again. And the one that requires even the quietest, well-behaved child to create a scene in movie theaters, churches, and the homes of judgmental social acquaintances.
Sadly, that’s why young children have no business being in movie theaters, late showings or not. You may think your kid can handle it. They might never have had a tantrum in their lives. But when they do, trust me, it’s going to be at the worst possible time — probably during a climactic death scene or when someone gasps out the name of the murderer.
I know this because I’ve been there. I had one of those oldest kids that gives you parenting delusions of grandeur. He was so well-behaved that I thought I had the parenting thing nailed. (His younger brother disillusioned me by getting stuck in the toilet as a toddler and generally causing mayhem while never sleeping.)
So one time, I tried to sit through a movie I desperately wanted to see while holding a much-too-young child. What actually happened was that I spent the first half the movie completely stressed out about the possibility of him crying and the second half of the movie taking turns with my husband in walking him around the lobby.
Not only can’t I remember any of that movie, I don’t even remember its title.
To this day, I regret it. What was I thinking trying to go to a movie with a small child? It wasn’t fun for me. It wasn’t fun for my son. And it couldn’t have been fun for anyone sitting between me and the exit as I dashed to get him out of the theater before he let loose with a wail that he’d obviously been secretly perfecting for months.
Obviously, there are exceptions. Some theaters hold matinees specifically for moms and children. Anyone else who expects to enjoy the nuances of a movie in those circumstances is either a masochist or looking for material for a bad Yelp review.
If you complain about children at a showing of “The Incredibles 2,” no matter what time it is, I’m not going to be sympathetic. There are movies that are obviously for children, and I’m not going to decide what time kids need to see them.
However, both parents and those who wish to enjoy kid-free movies should be honest with themselves about what qualifies as a kids movie. If there is potential for an animated animal to burst into song, it’s probably fine for children to be there, no matter how much you wish they weren’t.
On the other hand, no matter how many Baby Einstein products you’ve used, your 2-year-old is not so precocious that it justifies taking her to a special showing of “Citizen Kane.”
What to do when a baby ruins your movie experience? As tempting as it may be, it isn’t helpful to glare and hiss at the parents in question. Anyone who knows better is already mortified and trying to figure out how to escape. And anyone who doesn’t know better isn’t going to be moved by your disapproval.
Complaining to the theater management, however, is usually more productive. Theaters regularly send ushers through theaters to check on things, so they’re probably already aware of the problem. So long as you’re reasonable about the situation, the manager should be willing to offer some kind of discount, refund, or other compromises.
As for parents who want to bring young children to a theater, I’m afraid the proper course is one you might not want to hear: don’t. Unless it’s a kids movie or a showing specifically welcoming families and children, you’re courting disaster. Or a lot of hisses and glares from people who didn’t read the advice above.
It’s true that the baby years can be hard for parents. Babysitters can be expensive and hard to come by. And sometimes, you’re desperate for a taste of what life was like before yours was consumed by diapers and cookie crumbs.
But trust me — this will pass. And one day, you will be sitting in a movie theater, kids safely at home, waiting to enjoy a rare adult evening at a movie you’ve been eager to see. And the lights will go down, and the music will start. And somewhere in the back of the theater, a young child will start up with the uncontrollable sobs of someone whose box of fruit snacks just spilled on the floor.
And you will turn to your friend or spouse and say, “Why can’t people leave their kids at home when they go to the movies?”