It's hard for young children to sit still for two hours, and that can turn a trip to the movies into an ordeal for parents. So what if the solution were to let the kids play at the cinema?
Mexico-based movie theatre chain Cinepolis is betting it can lure more families back to the multiplex with its new in-theatre playground concept, Cinepolis Junior. The remodelled auditoriums at Cinepolis US theatres each feature a colourful play area near the screen in front of the seats, a jungle gym, and cushy beanbag chairs.
Cinepolis, the world's fourth-largest cinema operator, hopes the new kid-oriented theatres - which charge up to $3 more than a regular ticket - will help it better compete with Netflix and other at-home options by enticing more parents and children to go to the theatre. Designed for ages 3 to 12, the two children's auditoriums open March 16 to screen Disney's live-action Beauty and the Beast remake.
"It's really intended to make kids feel welcome and comfortable," said Cinepolis USA Chief Executive Adrian Mijares Elizondo. "The whole idea is to make it easier for parents to take their kids to the movies and let the kids have more fun."
The kids' auditoriums, which each cost about $US500,000 to retrofit, are the latest idea cinema owners have devised to stem the long-term slowdown in theatrical attendance, especially among younger consumers.
There is no word yet whether Cinepolis has any plans to expand into international markets such as Australia.
Many movie goers will no doubt balk at the idea of letting kids play freely in a movie theatre. But the concept could be attractive to families with young children, analysts said.
"Some may argue that it's disrespectful to the movie, but in this scenario it may be the best way for the kids to experience the film," said box-office analyst Paul Dergarabedian. "You might actually get more parents to come and bring their kids. Even in the greatest movies, kids get restless and bored."
Cinepolis Junior was first introduced in Mexico, where it is known as Sala Junior, in January 2015.
The theatres will allow families into the theatre early so the kids can climb on the plastic hippos and alligators in the faux-turf, fenced-in play space, and explore the slides and obstacle course on the side aisle. They will also have time to play for about 15 minutes after the movie ends. The auditoriums boast beanbag seats and poolside lounge-style chairs.
Sala Junior cinemas in Mexico and other international locations feature a 15-minute intermission during the movies to let kids explore and use the restroom. Cinepolis also is considering leaving the house lights on during the movie so that restless children can easily get up to play.
One hurdle for families looking to try out Cinepolis Junior could be cost, as added amenities continue to drive up ticket prices.
The company is betting the idea will help usher in the next generation of movie goers by getting them hooked early.
"It's very valuable for us and the market to bring kids in early and for them to have a good time," Mijares said. "I think that will increase the possibility of those guests becoming strong movie goers as teenagers and adults."