Putting a Jungle Gym in a Movie Theater Might be the Dumbest Idea Ever
Every so often one sees a parenting product or idea so wildly unsuited for the realities of parenting that one wonders if the brain behind it has ever seen an actual child. Next week, two theaters in California will be opening “kid-friendly” theaters complete with giant playgrounds in them, so that kids can run around like it’s the Discovery Zone while their parents can sit back and watch Finding Dory in peace.
According to The Los Angeles Times, two Cineapolis Junior theaters opening in California this week will be outfitted with jungle gyms, like this:
The idea behind putting a jungle gym in a movie theater is that kids who can’t sit still and pay attention during a children’s movie will be able to run around in the dark on this large, crowded jungle gym.
It’s meant to convince families to go to the movies together instead of watching Netflix or streaming kids’ movies at home, but it costs $3 extra per ticket, and honestly just looking at that jungle gym is setting off all my “terrible idea” vibes. It looks fun, if it weren’t in a theater, but nobody is going to be able to watch Finding Dory while their 3-year-olds are running around on that thing, especially if it’s also full of 5-, 8-, and 10-year-olds, too.
The problem is that there’s not much overlap between children who can be left unsupervised on a giant jungle gym full of strange kids in a dark theater and children who can’t sit down and watch a fun kids’ movie for an hour and a half. The theater says it’s designed for kids ages three to 12, but that is a huge age difference, and any parent knows that mixing kids of different sizes into a physical play area is a fraught proposition. Put five three-year-olds on a playground, and it will be adorable. Add a super-fast, energetic 10-year-old to the mix, and suddenly it’s Lord of the Flies in there.
And if every kid in the theater wants to use the jungle gym, it’s going to be really crowded, really quickly.
If the theater wanted to achieve maximum parental comfort and convince parents to come to the theater by offering an on-site hourly daycare or babysitter–like at any number of gyms or at Jessica Biel’s poorly named but brilliant restaurant, Au Fudge–I would be thrilled. Put a baby sitter in the movie theater, and I will throw you a ticker tape parade. But a jungle gym is basically the opposite of a babysitter, and I don’t feel comfortable leaving my small child in its care.