Be forewarned: If you plan to spend an evening at the theater, or to go on a movie date tonight (or any other night, at that), chances are, you’ll get a run for your money.
No, we’re not talking about the latest Hollywood blockbuster gone belly-up or the hum-drum theater production that fails to inspire.
The challenge has nothing to do with what’s on the screen or stage, but right there on the seat next to you.
It’s those nagging, annoying toddlers or young kids accompanying their parents to what they see as an “amusement park.
Don’t even try – “shhhhh just doesn’t help.
True, these kids are tiny, but they loom large on the distraction scale, especially in the summer or on weekends in winter.
You can wager that your theater experience will be marred by kids running down the aisle or toddlers screaming at the top of their lungs. Strange how their parents would pay an arm and a leg to spend the evening lulling their kids into silence, and maybe, if they’re lucky, they’d catch bits and pieces of the performance in between.
What with screams, cries and whispers of people discussing the show, your evening is bound to be a hellish ordeal.
You turn your head, to reprimand the guilty parent- who will ignore your grimace nine times out of ten – or, if you’re lucky, you’ll get the rare reaction where the parent would leave the theater to silence the baby.
But as the Arabic proverb goes: Shar ul balleyati maa yudhik (The worst disaster make you laugh). One couple kept took turns with the baby for three hours at a Maadi cinema featuring “The Yacoubian Building , with one parent walking out to brief the other on the parts they missed.
It’s worse, however, if you’re watching a play. These distractions don’t only ruin the experience for the audience, but also take their toll on the actors on stage.
During one musical performance at a Cairo theatre, the star, a well-known vocalist who was dabbling in theater for the first time, left the podium when some kids started screaming and running around.
A heated conversation then broke out between the actors and the kids’ parents, who left in disappointment.
Result: the show was spoiled for everyone.
So why don’t these parents stick to more children-friendly entertainment outlets?
“But tell me for God’s sake, where else can you go on a winter night? said one mother who came along with her family to see a performance at the Faisal Nada theatre.
She added: “Your options in winter are limited. We rarely go out even on weekends because it could also be cold during the day and I don’t have a baby-sitter to watch the children.
Mahmoud Lamie, father of three, had a suggestion: “Each entertainment place should set up a special play area for kids. It isn’t only about the absence of a babysitter. It is also about being in the company of the entire family and not only your wife.
“This could make it better only for some, remarked Ibrahim Adel who kept running after his three-year-old daughter as she tried to climb onto the stage.
He said: “I can’t leave the girl in the play area all the time, provided there is one. Her mother or I should always be present to look after her.
“I know it’s a real pain but I only go to the movies when it’s a film or a play that everyone in the family is keen to see, said Alia Hassan, mother of three-year-old Hisham.
“Even then, we suffer to see half the production. The other half is lost so we can keep an eye on the kids.
For Ali Safa having children experience theater productions is important for their education and nurtures an appreciation of art.
“I agree people should not bring infants to such places. But at the same time, ake them to the cinema or theater, how could they develop an interest in such places and eventually learn how to behave there, he said.
Hania Kamel, a mother, isn’t so sympathetic. She said children should only be allowed to attend children’s movies.
“They make noise because they are not interested in the film. If they insist on letting them in, she said, “cinemas should set up play areas.
In some countries, children under 10 are prohibited from entering cinema screenings.
“We’ve applied this measure in theaters, said one attendant at Faisal Nada’s, “but it did not work. Ticket sales decreased and the owners had to lift the ban to encourage sales.
While some cinemas didn’t have the slightest objection to letting children in, others were more reserved.
Good News Cinemas for instance have a strict policy of not allowing in children under four.
“But also children over four will not be tolerated if they make noise, said one Good News usher.
“Their parents will be immediately asked to take action.
Family Cineplex officials in Maadi told The Daily Star Egypt that having been conscious of the issue they have appointed three attendants for each hall to take care of the matter.
Others are yet to be decisive on a specific policy.
“What can you say about it? said one attendant.
“There is no rule and if a rule is laid down, it will affect the business. We just try to have some control and leave it up to the parents’ common sense.