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Coming Soon to a Theater Near You: Jungle Gyms

Empty movie theater
Alamy

Movie theaters are in an arms race of amenities. Better chairs, more legroom, better food options, alcoholic beverages, meals served right at your seat; in the last few years, exhibitors have done whatever they can think of to drag people away from their computers and televisions. The latest gimmick, according to the Los Angeles Times: A freaking jungle gym in the actual auditorium.

This innovation, from Mexican theater chain Cinepolis, tricks out theaters with “a colorful play area near the screen in front of the seats, a jungle gym, and cushy beanbag chairs.” Admission to the so-called “Cinepolis Junior” costs $3 more than a regular ticket, but with that upcharge comes the freedom to arrive early and stay late, where kids ages 3 to 12 can play with “plastic hippos and alligators in the faux-turf, fenced-in play space” and to ride a slide and an obstacle course on one of the aisles. Plus, they can occasionally glance in the vague direction of the screen where the movie is playing.

Here’s a picture of one of Cinepolis’ Junior theaters in Spain:

A Cinepolis executive told the Times the concept was designed to “make kids feel welcome and comfortable.” And I think putting up jungle gyms or playgrounds for kids in movie theater lobbies makes a lot of sense; that concept has certainly worked well for fast food restaurants for decades. But a jungle gym inside the actual auditorium? That seems like a recipe for disaster, or at least for completely distracted viewing. Why should parents pay extra for a movie ticket when their kid isn’t even going to watch the movie, particularly when they could just go to a playground for free?

As the parent of a young girl who’s not quite ready to go to the movie theater, this idea doesn’t exactly get me excited for our first father-daughter trip to the multiplex. In fact, I’d go pretty much anywhere else before I took her to a theater with a playground in it. But if you disagree, and you live in the Southern California area, you can take your little ones to Cinepolis Junior when it opens on March 16 at two of the chain’s locations.

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