First Time at the Movies

| March 6, 2013 | 17 Comments

a father and two boys sitting in a movie theaterIf you have small children, you have no doubt wondered when the right time is to start taking them to the movies. A movie can be an excellent source of entertainment for a young child, and family movie trips can be a lot of fun. On the other hand, your kids have short attention spans (like all children do) and you don’t want them to disturb the moviegoers around them. And with as much as a trip to the movies costs these days, you probably don’t want to chance having to leave in the middle of one because your child can’t sit still, won’t keep quiet, or is frightened by the larger than life picture and surround sound. So how do you know when the time is right?

The truth is that there probably is no surefire way to know when the time is right. You really may end up having a false start (or two) where you have to leave the theater early. You can increase your odds of a good first experience at the movie theater, but as with so many parenting issues, there is no real guarantee.

For the best results, you’ll need to rely largely on your knowledge of your child. Does she startle or cry at loud noises, scare easily, or get overstimulated quickly? If so, she may not be ready for the dark movie theater with the loud sounds and the very large on-screen characters. How about sitting still? For a preschool aged child, you should probably start with a shorter movie – two hours is a very long time for a child that age to be still and quiet. You should also avoid movies that are likely to be upsetting: if your child is terrified of witches, Snow White may not be the best movie to start with.

You can probably expect that at some point during the movie, your child is going to talk, or want to get up and move around. At a movie aimed at young children, it’s doubtful that anybody is expecting perfect silence, so this is OK. Instruct him ahead of time to whisper if he needs to ask you a question, and gently remind him if he forgets. If he feels the need to stretch his legs halfway through the movie, then it may be a good time to take a bathroom break.

If you’re really concerned about possibly having to leave the theater early, you may want to start with a discount theater, so that it’s not such a loss if it does happen. Many areas have theaters that show slightly older movies for a greatly reduced ticket price. Also, some big theaters will do free or low-cost matinees during the summer, where they show older children’s movies. Check into what’s available in your local area. If you want to take your child to the movies and you know they aren’t ready for the theater yet, you may have other options. Check with your local library to see if they have a regular movie showing in the children’s section, or see if your town ever has Movie in the Park events. These are low pressure (and low cost) ways to get her used to the idea of a theater-style movie watching experience. Before you know it, you’ll be able to go enjoy the new family movies without fear.

Comments (17)

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  1. Wendy mastin says:

    Each child is different and you really need to be the judge of your own children. Some may sit and watch for the time of the movie and some may not. You just need to justify to yourself whether it is worth it or not. If you are hesitating, their not ready.

  2. Sam Dock says:

    We took our son to the drive in a lot when he was a newborn, which was perfect because he would just nurse or sleep the whole time. This Sunday we are taking him to an actual movie theater for the first time-he is nearly 3. We are lucky enough to have a local theater that offers free showings of older kids movies certain times of the year…so this way if it goes horribly and we leave 20 minutes in-at least I didnt pay for tickets haha

  3. MrsK says:

    Hello! I just found your blog today from the chat today!

  4. Maria Iemma says:

    I cannot wait to bring my granddaughter to the movie theatre with me – it will be a great bonding time for us. I know there may be challenges but they are so worth it.

  5. md kennedy says:

    I think drive-ins are great for first-time movie-going for kids. Too bad there just aren’t too many around these days!

  6. Aubrey says:

    we only go to the dollar theater

  7. Sherry J says:

    Thanks for the interview,very helpful.

  8. Ari says:

    Only you can judge whether your child is ready or not, just as this article points out. Sometimes it may take a trial run, but I feel like those should be taken at a time when if you do leave or your child does interrupt with a cry, it is better to have it occur at a showing that’s not at midnight or the premiere day of a movie. A great time would be an afternoon show. All the other points this article makes are very good suggestions in my opinion.

  9. carla bonesteel says:

    My first movie ever…I was about 6 years old…my two Aunts brought me to see E.T. I was so excited, popcorn, soda…we sat in the theater…the lights went out…and I proceeded to scream and cry at the top of my lungs! Needless to say, we didn’t even make it to the previews. WE left, and stayed in the light. LOL

  10. Paula V says:

    Great tips. I’ve never taken a child to the theater since I don’t have children but this is great advice. The theater is such a fun experience.

  11. olly says:


  12. Katherine G says:

    This is a great article!!!

  13. tami s says:

    I just took m 4 year old grandson to the movies for the first tine. He did really well. He talked a couple of times, but actually much less than the older kids that were there

  14. Lori Alcorn says:

    I remember my first move I went to with my day back in 1967 believe it or not we saw a dirty harry movie .. things were different than LOL

  15. Charlene says:

    I took my kids at the age of 2. They didn’t always sit still, jumping from my lap to their chair and then standing but they did enjoy the movie. Each child is different so you just have to use your own judgement. Only you know if your child is ready.

  16. Charlene says:

    I took my kids to the movies at the age of 2. They didn’t sit still, jumping from their sit to my lap, then back to their seat, them standing. Everyone has to use your own judgement when it comes to your kids. Only you know them well enough to make that decision.

  17. Crystal Warren says:

    My son loves when I tell the story of his first movie (The X-files) It was when he as only 7 months old and I was on my way from Savannah to WV to visit family when my car’s air conditioning broke on a 102 degree day. He and I were both so miserably hot that I stopped at a mall bought us some tickets and went in and enjoyed the movie in the nice air conditioning!

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