Thursday, July 24, 2008

Bringing baby to the movies

theaterSam has a movie-critic past, so we used to go to lots of movies in actual theaters -- the kind with the big screens, sticky floors, and wafting scent of greasy popcorn. When we had Mikko, we wondered how we would continue to enjoy this experience with a baby. Some mothers said they could just bring their newborns with them, and the sweet little angels would nurse and snooze through the whole showing.


One try at that when Mikko was a few months old put the kibosh on that particular plan.

We looked up information on movie theaters that allowed in babies, but all we could find online at the time for our area was sorrowful posts about the defunct Reel Moms showings at AMC/Loews. That had sounded perfect -- weekly showings for just parents and babies, crying allowed, and current movies showing, not just kiddie flicks -- but it was no more. Why stop such beauty?

So, sadly, we gave up our dream of visiting a movie theater until we wanted to leave Mikko with a babysitter, something we haven't felt like doing yet. It was only one experience that we were unable to do with an infant, and there were plenty of other ways to fill our time.

But then we earned some free movie passes, and the search for baby-friendly theaters began again.

And, wouldn't you know it? Several theaters hereabouts had stepped in to fill the AMC gap. So I want to let everyone know that these options may be out there, so you don't wait till your baby's a year old like we did!

We saw The Dark Knight today, and Mikko actually did sleep through quite a bit of it. Score!

Since it's not necessarily national chains running these promotions, your experience may vary, but feel free to call and ask local theaters if they have any such amenities. We've found that, curiously, the theaters don't tend to promote their baby-friendly showings, so sometimes it's a question of ferreting them out. These ones we found, below, are in the greater Seattle area and should give you an idea of what might be offered in your neck of the woods -- or what to campaign for!

Lincoln Square Cinemas in Bellevue offers Mother's Day Thursdays -- look on the main page for the link for current showings. It's every Thursday at 10 a.m., and they rotate through a selection of the current movies they have playing, so be sure to check if your preferred movie is showing. Admission is the standard rate for adults. The website says this is parents' "chance to bring their strollers and come watch the latest movies with like-minded parents." Lights are turned up a little, and sound is turned down a little, though it's still plenty loud. It's billed for "infant children," but we (ahem) bring our 13-month-old, and no one's protested, and today I heard the pitter patter of little toddler feet behind me. And, despite the "Mother's Day" name, Sam was not turned away. One fun treat is that you're handed a menu and golf pencil upon entering, with which to order snacks to be delivered to your seat. There's a parking garage, and validation at the theater is free.

Columbia City Cinema, in the south of Seattle, offers Cry Baby Tuesdays (see tiny text notice on main page), in which babies are welcome at all shows before 6 p.m. on Tuesdays. This is not a babies-only showing, so the sound and lights are the same as in a regular screening, and you're likely to share the theater with a confused non-parent patron or several. But the newly renovated theaters are, in general, uncrowded and provide plenty of scootching space if your baby so desires (cough, cough...Mikko...cough). And the peanut-oiled popcorn is to die for.

Kirkland Parkplace Cinemas offers Baby's Day at the Movies every other Friday at 9:45 a.m. Yes, if you can't tell, all the baby showings are for the otherwise most sparsely attended times. Call ahead to find out which movies will be offered. Lights are up and sound is down.

Three Landmark Theatres in Seattle feature first-come, first-served soundproof cry rooms with glass windows and the sound piped in. Here's a super-useful blog post for how to determine which showing is in the auditorium with the attached cry room: "What's Playing in Seattle Crying Rooms?" Guild 45th, 2115 N. 45th St., seats up to two adults. Metro Cinemas, 4500 9th Ave. N.E., seats up to four adults. Varsity Theatre, 4329 N.E. University Way, seats up to two adults. If you scroll to the first picture, here's an example of what a cry room might look like, from a San Antonio forum -- but remember that everything's bigger in Texas. ;)

For summertime viewing fun, consider outdoor movies. Somewhat further afield, but if you want to feel old-timey, Everett's SRO's Puget Park Drive-In Theatre boasts a 50'x 100' screen with FM stereo sound and 700 parking stalls, and double-feature first-run shows seven days a week at dusk from May to mid-September. Blue Fox Drive-In in Oak Harbor has the same sort of set-up but is a little cheaper. Either would definitely be a whole-family possibility.

Many other locations throughout Seattle have outdoor movies in the summer, usually projected on walls. The casual atmosphere should make bringing a baby a cinch. Rather than repeat this blogger's work, I'll just link to Zee Grega's compilation of showtimes and resources: "Outdoor Summer Movies: a semi-comprehensive guide." The screenings range from golden-oldies to cult favorites to slightly more recent on-DVD favorites, and the showings are in Fremont, West Seattle, out on Lake Union in a float-in screening (!), Edmonds, Seattle Center, Rainier Square, Capitol Hill, Lynnwood, and more, not that that order made any sense. I happen to know, living in West Seattle, that High Point Community Center also did an outdoor showing this year -- check your local park schedule for family events like that. (For instance, there's a pdf to download at the link.)

popcornWell, I didn't mean for that to be as long as it was, but it turns out there are quite a few options for baby-friendly moviegoing! So avoid the glares and stares at your crying or cooing young'un, and head off to a place where you'll fit right in.

If you know of other family-friendly movie options, in Seattle or in your own region, please feel free to post them in the comments so other parents have ideas of where to go.


Anonymous said...

This is very helpful, thanks so much for sharing!

Lauren Wayne said...

Glad it helped! We really enjoyed going out like real-live people again.

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