BYOBaby at the Madstone
by Charmie Gholson
Imagine taking your ten-month-old baby to the movies. You go into the theater knowing full well that unless the baby takes a nap, you'll be lucky to see even part of the show. You expect to endure the disapproving looks of other patrons. With every little fuss or even coo from your baby, you'll worry, hoping others around you aren't bothered. This scenario is less than inviting, but that fact is overridden by the stark reality that you have to get out of the house before you go bonkers. What other choice do you have?
Good news! Every Tuesday, and the second Saturday of each month, Madstone Theaters offers moms, dads, and caregivers of babies under two a matinee-priced film and some much-deserved respect. The babies not only get in for free but are welcomed and even pampered. The theater staff lower the sound, raise the lights a bit, offer ample space for strollers, and get this erect a changing table in the back, complete with supplies.
When I went to check out this too-good-to-be-true phenomenon, a handful of adults were camped out in the main aisle with blankets and toys, coddling, crooning to, and dangling enticing objects in front of a plethora of babies. The whole place was full of babies: nursing babies, gurgling babies, squealing babies, fat bright-eyed babies. A mom (or dad) leaving the theater with a screaming baby was met with half smiles instead of dagger eyes. It was a beautiful thing.
After the movie (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind go see it) I spoke with two nannies who'd been coming since it started. "They need to do this in more places," said Kelly Kleine, a full-time nanny who meets up with her buddy and fellow nanny Lilly Sacks every Tuesday. Lilly brings the twin ten-month-old girls in her care, and together they make a day of it at the mall with the babies. They see a flick,
eat lunch, and then hang out at the new Briarwood play area.
That new play area is, in part, why the BYOBaby program was introduced. Marketing director Sherrie Smith says Madstone had already been thinking about a baby-friendly showing when one of the moms who hang out in the play area dropped by and suggested it. Smith convinced her employers to give it a test, and voilÁ! Prayers have been answered.
Hopefully, Madstone's family showings hail the beginning of a kid-friendly movement. Who knows? Maybe next we can convince someone to build a huge play structure in a smoke-free restaurant that serves great Thai food.
[Originally published in May, 2004.]