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    I Took My Kids To Experience The Most Kid-Friendly Movie Theater Of All Time

    Kids today have no idea how good they've got it.

    In Southern California there’s a new movie theater experience that’s guaranteed to blow a kid’s mind — screening rooms with giant play structures inside of them!


    These junior auditoriums just opened at Cinépolis Pico Rivera in Los Angeles and Cinépolis Vista in San Diego. The auditoriums are new in the United States, but Cinépolis has operated them internationally since 2014.

    My family LOVES going to the movies, so I hustled down to Cinépolis Pico Rivera with my kids — Annie, 7, and James, 3 — to check out the auditorium's first-ever screening.

    Heather Spohr

    Full disclosure — I was very interested to see if this new movie experience would keep my threenager from acting like this:

    Heather Spohr

    James used to be good at the movies, but has made our last few movie trips very difficult. A few months ago, for example, BuzzFeed hosted a screening of The Secret Lives Of Pets. Cool, right? Well, I spent most of the screening in the lobby with a restless James who just wanted to run up and down the stairs. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    As you can see, the entrance to the auditorium was very kid friendly, and on-theme for the inaugural screening: The LEGO Batman Movie.

    Heather Spohr

    Soon they opened the doors to let us inside and my first thought was, "Whoa..."

    Heather Spohr

    My second thought was, "Hey! Slow down!" as my kids bolted away from me.

    There were two play areas for the kids to enjoy. The first — in front of the screen — was meant for smaller children.

    Heather Spohr

    It looked like a mall play area and had lots of things for kids James' age to climb, jump off, and fight over.

    The Pièce De Résistance, though, was the huge play structure that ran along the entirety of the far wall.


    The structure got a big thumbs up from the lucky kids who got to try it out for the first time. Annie especially loved this "space bubble."

    Heather Spohr

    The most popular part of the structure by far, though, was the slide.

    Mike Spohr

    As the kids played, I did a little investigating into the auditorium's rules and learned a big one — NO PLAYING DURING THE MOVIE IS ALLOWED. That had me like:


    Once I thought about it, though, it made sense. Letting kids climb and jump off of a play structure in a darkened auditorium doesn't exactly scream, "SAFETY!" Also, if the kids played during the screening their hollering would likely drown out the movie's audio.

    What kids CAN do is play for twenty minutes before the movie, and then again during a 15-minute intermission.

    Of course, while the rule does make sense — you know, on account of kids not cracking their heads open in the dark — I couldn't help but worry how these 38 pounds of trouble would take it.

    Heather Spohr

    Forcing James to sit in his seat for the entire movie and ignore the giant play structure (that was still within his line of sight) was not something I was looking forward to.

    Soon the attendant announced it was time for everyone to take their seats. This called our attention to another cool part of the experience — kid-friendly seating!

    In addition to these traditional theater seats...

    Heather Spohr

    There were these lounge chairs...

    Heather Spohr

    Bean bag-esque chairs...

    Heather Spohr

    And actual bean bags! Annie and James picked the bean bags (which proved not to be as problematic for my back as I imagined).

    Heather Spohr

    So how did James take the whole, "Stop playing and sit to watch the movie" thing?

    Warner Bros.

    Well, initially he sat next to me calmly because he was excited about the bean bags and movie. Inside I was thinking, "Holy Cow! Cinépolis has done it! They've found a way to make going to the movies with a threenager tolerable!"

    But... about two minutes into the movie he pointed at the play structure and asked, "Play more?" When I told him "no" he then asked to go to the bathroom. Five minutes after we got back he asked to go to the bathroom AGAIN. (As a parent I knew he probably didn't really have to go again, but I also knew the one time I refuse to take him will be the time he pees on my pants, so I took him).

    But then — plot twist! After twenty minutes (and those two trips to the bathroom) I looked down and saw this:

    Heather Spohr

    Did all of the playing on the play structure tucker him out? Or was there just too much excitement going on? Either way, he napped until the last ten minutes of the movie which meant this was our first low-stress movie outing in a long time!

    So what did we think about the experience?

    Heather Spohr

    This is a totally different trip to the movies your kids won't soon forget. Price-wise, tickets are a few dollars more than they are for a regular screening ($9.50 for matinees, and $12.75 for kids and $14.75 for adults at evening screenings), but when you consider that most play places would charge you more than a few bucks for 35 minutes of play time, it works out.

    This is a home run with kids over five. Annie had an absolute blast and no problem transitioning from playing to watching the movie. Younger kids will have fun, too, but if your little one isn't great at going to the movies this might not be any different.