It was not much of a surprise that he was anxious to get our son to the theater. We had evidence to suggest he was ready though. He is a huge fan of Toy Story 3, which he has renamed "Woody on the Train," for the opening scenes. But was he really ready for the full-on dark theater, surround sound experience?
We got our chance to test the waters this past weekend at a screening of "Ice Age: Continental Drift." My first sense of how different this was for him was his reaction to the start of the previews. Most of us love the enveloping sound and sharp graphics, but he immediately insisted "That's too loud. Turn it down!"
I also discovered that previews don't always match children's movies, showing adult or more complex fare that he is quick to dismissively label "Mama TV." It's also a moment where kids can detach and lose interest in the main feature. Then came a Simpsons short, which made the adults laugh but was definitely over the head of my almost three year old.
Finally the movie started. For a while our son seemed to do okay, even if he kept pulling off his 3D glasses. He was enjoying his popcorn and only randomly interjected "Why he doing that?" or "Where he going?"
About two-thirds of the way in, we could tell he was getting antsy. We left the theater, just for him to declare he wanted to go back. Then five minutes later he stood up, pointed at the screen, where the movie continued to run, and declared: "It's finished!" So we gathered our things and assumed the wooly mammoths reunite and the saber tooth gets the girl.
So what should parents do to get their kids introduced to the theater?
Some just get lucky, getting kids who adore movies and show great comportment or at least choose to go to sleep early on.
Here's some help for the rest of us:
A factoid I learned in this research: Kids can't really grasp death and its finality until around five. If it comes up in a movie you take them to when they're younger, don't be surprised if you get questions or distress over why a character doesn't reappear or just get up and keep going.
Soon enough, you'll be the one trying to hold your attention span and refrain from crying as you sit through the latest tween fare!