Every time a new technology comes around and transforms the way people consume media, movie theater owners freak the fuck out and start adding “premium” gimmicks to make it worth customers’ while to leave the house again. (See: The 3-D trend of the 1950s, the 3-D trend of the early 2000s.) And rightfully so, because while there are always going to be people who argue that you’ve never really seen Sátántangó unless you’ve sat through the whole thing in one ass-numbing seven-hour go in a dingy storefront theater, there are also always going to be people who don’t bother to look up what’s playing before they go to the movies.
That latter category are the people who stay away from movie theaters when presented with a more convenient option, whether it be TV in the ‘50s or streaming services in the 2010s. And if they have children, the temptation to save time, money, and hassle by just watching movies at home multiplies by a factor of each little angel. That’s presumably why Mexico-based movie theater chain Cinepolis is bringing its thus-far successful “Cinepolis Junior” concept, created in response to fluctuations in attendance for family films, to its U.S. theaters. Either that, or they really just hate movie snobs.
Basically, the idea behind Cinepolis Junior is that, if your kids are going to climb all over the seats anyway, why not give them a playground inside the theater? It does this by tricking out auditoriums with “a colorful play area near the screen in front of the seats, a jungle gym, and cushy beanbag chairs,” so the little monsters can roam freely throughout the film and never learn to behave themselves in public. At the Mexican Cinepolis theaters where the concept was first introduced in 2014, “Sala Junior” screenings also come with a 15-minute bathroom/vomit/incessant question break during the film, but it’s not clear if the same structure will be used in the U.S. Cinepolis is considering leaving the lights on during the movie in U.S. theaters, though, calling into question why families would bother paying $50 or more just to go to what, at that point, is merely an indoor playground. Expensive snacks, maybe?
On the one hand, we here at The A.V. Club don’t like it when the lights in the aisles at movie theaters are too bright—have they been getting brighter lately, or is that just us?—so this sounds like a living nightmare as far as we’re concerned. Oh, and Cinepolis Junior screenings are more expensive than regular movie tickets. But maybe we’re just not the target audience for this sort of thing. Cinepolis Junior screenings have been successful in Spain and in Latin America, after all, and will be limited to select auditoriums playing family-friendly fare. We’re more “Mommy & Me screening of Nymphomaniac Volume 1” types.