One of the things I miss most about life before motherhood—aside from daily showers and non-utilitarian bras—is going to the movies. And in a city like Prague where film fests occur more frequently than I change my daughter’s diaper, the loss, for a movie-lover like me, has been especially poignant.
I’ve heard tell of brave parents who take their sleeping bundles to the movies. But I’m one of those fretful moms who, when my daughter was a newborn, convinced myself that doing so would make her ears spontaneously bleed, or at the very least give her an early predilection for buttered popcorn. Besides, the window of opportunity for when an infant will doze peacefully while mom enjoys a matinee is woefully short. I just never got around to it.
Enter Baby Bio, Bio Oko’s weekly screening for parents with small children (every Tuesday at 10:00). And when I say for parents, I mean for parents. These aren’t kid movies. We’re talking good old-fashioned, R-rated fare here. The “baby” label simply means that you can do the following things, in total comfort and without guilt, while viewing the film: bust out noisy snacks, bust out your boob, bust out into a run when your mini-Hoover crawls off in search of floor food.
In fact, you needn’t sweat it if your babe wants to explore the premises. Bio Oko has done their best to make the theater somewhat baby-friendly. Not babyproof, mind you. But baby-friendly. To that end, the space between the screen and front row houses a modest dětský koutek, complete with a couple boxes of toys. (Our 10-month-old fancied a naked imitation Barbie. “Hitchcock” was showing; it made sense.) Watch out for the random puzzle pieces and other assorted choking hazards mingled with the blocks and softies.
For worrisome mamas like me, certain safety measures have been taken as well. According to the management, these films screen with the volume down lower and the lights up higher than usual. Though not so high that naps can’t be taken—by child or parent. Your own movie-viewing pleasure should not be affected by these adjustments. We didn’t notice the difference even a little.
Along with the carpeted area up front, a number of comfy seating options close to the stage are interspersed with the stiff-backed Bio Oko chairs of yore. Settle in on a reclining chaise lounger, cushy bean-bag chair, love-seat, or, for fans of retro Eastern Bloc awesomeness, a classic Trabant that has been converted to cinema seating for a family of four.
Speaking of retro awesomeness, Bio Oko is a legend among Prague’s cinemas. Built in 1939, it was recently renovated and modernized but has retained its functionalist facade and air of arthouse glamour. Unfortunately, all things retro tend to go hand-in-hand with all things unsafe for small children and inconvenient for their caregivers. While you may have admired that grand marble staircase before, good luck hauling your stroller down it now. The absence of an elevator makes the case for bringing a baby carrier, however, the kindly, though elderly, usher offered to help us down the steps. There was also a staffer waiting at the bottom of the stairs to help us up when the movie let out.
Alternatively, strollers can be deposited upstairs in the cafe—but on the morning of our visit, most families opted to keep theirs with them in the theater; fortunately there is plenty of space to accommodate everyone’s ride. And because I know these are the sorts of things parents fret about, the Bio Oko’s restrooms are clean, modern, and equipped with a sizable changing table, though only in the ladies’ room. A shame as we spotted two lone daddies in attendance.
The box office and entrance to the cinema are located in the cafe. While smoking isn’t allowed in the cafe until 22:00 and only on its upper level, you’ll likely catch a whiff of secondhand as you pass through the area, or after the film should you sit down for refreshments. (I suggest bringing your own unless you can make do with booze and bar nibbles.) What’s more surprising is the overwhelming scent of stale tobacco that greets you upon entering the theater itself. As a former smoker it made me nostalgic, as a parent I’d definitely say it’s a point of concern.
I counted only about 10-15 families present during the screening we attended, which seemed to be the perfect number. I imagine if the place was packed, the experience might not have been so enjoyable. During the film the fussing was kept to a minimum. Our babies all seemed perfectly content to just hang out in the dark and play and sleep.
If you have a highly mobile toddler or an older child, though, you may want to skip this particular event as you’ll probably end up chasing your kid for the duration of the film and he or she may distract the other patrons. (Worse, your little one might actually pay attention to what’s going on in, say, “Django Unchained”.) At 80 CZK, the bargain-priced Saturday showing for kids, usually in Czech, may be a better bet.
I truly appreciated that fact that we felt no rush to leave the theater once the lights went up. We took our time exploring the old car and letting our daughter take a few tentative steps across the stage. I briefly chatted with some of the other moms, many of whom were visiting for the first time and planned on coming back again. One of them gave us some rather sensible advice: “Choose a movie that doesn’t have subtitles!”
Being able to take in a grown up film—no sitter required—was well worth the 110 CZK admission. Being able to take in a grown up film while sprawled out on a bean bag chair may have just spoiled “ordinary” movies for me forever.
Bio Oko Baby Bio
WHERE: Františka Křížka 15, Prague 7
WHEN: Tuesdays 10:00
Kino Aero Baby Bio
WHERE: Biskupcova 31, Prague 3
WHEN: Wednesdays 10:00