A Jungle Gym Movie Theater Is a Great Idea, Said No Parent Ever

playground ball slide
iStock.com/BrianAJackson

There used to be a time in my life when I saw movies the same day they came out. It feels like yesterday that my husband and I were waiting in line to get our seats for The Wolverine or The Dark Knight Rises, but somehow that's become a distant memory, thanks to our 3- and 1½-year-old boys. Having children has been known to throw a costly monkey wrench into the best of plans, which is why some might praise the theater chain Cinepolis for its jungle gym movie theaters for families -- but I think it's a disaster waiting to happen. In my opinion, the thought of a big-ass playground with tons of kids screaming their little hearts out in a theater does not sound like the ultimate cinematic experience.

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I try my best to stay objective to things that strike me as odd -- or evoke a WTF response at first glance -- which is why I just had to know more about this "in-theater playground," as the LA Times calls it.

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Apparently, Cinepolis Junior theaters aren't anything new, as they're available in movie joints across Mexico, Costa Rica, Spain, and Guatemala. Geared toward kids ages 3 to 12, these auditoriums are outfitted with various play spaces -- including a play structure with slides that serves as an obstacle course on the side aisle -- that aim to attract families to buy tickets (which will be $3 more, BTW) and enjoy a couple hours in front of the big screen.

Yeah ... okay.

At first glance, I'll admit that seeing an erected jungle gym inside of a movie theater looks pretty cool.

... But then I remember that said jungle gym is actually inside of a movie theater, and that doesn't make a lick of sense to me -- especially if you're trying to, I don't know, focus on the movie!

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Why would I pay $3 extra per person to be inconvenienced and annoyed inside of a movie theater? I can get that for free at home!

Though Cinepolis does note that these kid-friendly theaters have restrictions -- like height requirements and a no food, shoes, or beverage rule in the play areas -- and that families can come early to the movie or stay after to enjoy the fruits of these fun spaces, I'm just not buying it.

All I can picture is the potential of bodily injuries as tons of families with pint- and medium-sized children (3 to 12 is a pretty large age gap) try to push and squeeze through that obstacle course like meat going through a sausage casing -- possibly even knocking out a few moms and dads as they throw their shoes down to parents sitting in lower seats.

And speaking of clothing accessories, one can only hope shoes, socks, and whatever else kids decide to chuck are accounted for, not stolen (let's not act like this doesn't happen) or lost in the shuffle when parents are trying to round everyone up to leave.

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And what about certain parents who might feel moved to throw down in their child's honor after little Johnny gets pushed down the side aisle by big Thomas, because he was walking too slowly to the front of the jungle gym line? If you thought soccer moms were a hot mess at times, just wait and see how everyone acts in an enclosed space.

Yeah, it might be good that we have some popcorn for that.

And what happens when children who see all these wonderful playthings suddenly get the urge to want to play during the movie? Will this be allowed, or do parents have to sit through constant poking and annoying "Mom, can I go play please" questions?

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And, God forbid there's an emergency in the movie theater! Are parents supposed to walk, not run, to the nearest exit while trying to peel their children from the slide or the inside of a playground bubble -- assuming moms and dads have all the shoes, socks, and jackets ready in hand?

A swift exit might not be in the cards.

Listen, I'm all for promoting family and all that good stuff, but putting a playground inside of a movie theater seems like chaos to me. (Is anyone else imagining children trying to flip off the walls?)

I realize the LA Times notes that movie theater ticket sales are down, but this addition sounds more like a real-life Saw experience for parents than it does a beneficial one. If theater chains really want to be #AboutThatFamilyLife, why not transform one of those unused party rooms into a drop-off childcare spot where parents can pay by the hour to have their kids looked after so they can enjoy a movie without them?

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Theaters would be able to charge more by the hour and would attract more parents who are desperate for a kid-free date night with reliable childcare.

(Side note: There was a drop-off childcare facility in the same complex as a movie theater that served alcohol and dinner near my house. When I tell you my husband and I utilized their services to the fullest, I'm not lying!)

When I take my kiddos to the movies, I would actually love for them to try to focus on the movie -- the thing for which I shelled out a small fortune paying for admission, drinks, and snacks -- and enjoy it. Jungle gyms and play areas are wonderful, but for me, playgrounds in theaters don't really mix.

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