Imagine you’re at the cinema, watching a film. Right as the tension mounts to the climax, the piercing wails of a young child fill the auditorium. He’s just fallen off the Wobble Hopper.
The what? Oh, you know, the “Wobble Hopper,” one of several types of playground equipment now available for your child’s pleasure inside the cinema. The Mexican theatre chain Cinépolis is rolling out a series of retrofitted cinemas in the US that come equipped with jungle gyms and other play areas for children to keep themselves busy with while their parents sit and watch the movie.
To combat falling attendance, theatre chains are doing whatever it takes to lure people back to the cinema. Some of these amenities have been successful, like AMC’s luxurious reclining seats, or Alamo Drafthouse’s extensive food and drink menus (similar to the Gold Class experience in Australian cinemas). Others have been more gimmicky, like the South Korean company CJ 4DPLEX’s “4D” theatres, which are an abomination.
Now Cinépolis is targeting parents and their children. Kid-friendly movies are perennially among the highest-grossing films each year. But ask any parent with a small child, and they’ll tell you that getting through a whole movie is a rare treat. Cinépolis wants the Wobble Hopper to help make that happen.
In addition to the Wobble Hopper, which Cinépolis says is essentially a stationary pogo stick, the theatres will feature colourful, fenced-in play areas, bean bag chairs, a merry-go-round, a tire climber, and two different slides.
“The playful rooms will offer families a new and entertaining way to connect,” read a Cinépolis press release, though sending your kid down a slide over and over while you stare at a giant screen seems a strange way to connect. And it remains to be seen how appealing this will actually be to the children. Don’t they all just stare at screens nowadays? And if they really want to go run around, why not go to the park or an actual Chuck E. Cheese’s (or its Australian equivalent)?
The first two Cinépolis Junior theatres will open on March 16, both in California (San Diego and Los Angeles). They cost Cinépolis $500,000 each to retrofit, according to the Los Angeles Times. Similar theatres are already open in México, Costa Rica, Guatemala and Spain.
Cinema purists need not fret: You won’t be forced to endure the screams and laughter of children. The theatres will only show kid-friendly movies, and those choosing theatres with play equipment must pay an additional $3 on top of the normal ticket price for entry, the Los Angeles Times reported.
The Cinépolis Junior theatres in other countries must have been successful enough for the company to want to try it in the United States. In any case, theatre owners are desperate to counteract the rapidly growing popularity of streaming services like Netflix.
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Editing by Fiona Williams