Skyfall had been out a week and if we didn’t pull our finger out we’d miss it on the big screen. F. was not yet ready to give up V. to a babysitter and I understood what she meant: too soon.
So we decided to try out a baby screening. There was a mid-morning Baby Club screening at the Everyman cinema in Hampstead the next day so we booked ourselves a shared sofa-seat. The diaper bag was packed for the worst: extra nappies, an extra formula bottle, extra everything. It was a long film, plus we’d be taking V. on the Tube for the first time (I’ll write more about that, another time).
My expectation of the Baby Club was a constant barrage of crying from other babies or – an even worse scenario – from my own baby. These Baby Club events are often known as film screamings for a reason.
As we settled into our seats, I took a quick look around to count thirty tiny bald heads, bobbing on laps all around the auditorium. I expected mayhem, with me in the middle of it.
But as the film started, my own tiny bald head sat with her mouth agape at early scenes of Daniel Craig necking tequila. V. was quietly transfixed, like quite a few of the babies, at least for a little while. Inevitably the volume rose.
However, amid the waves of cries and shouts and laughter and cooing, something unexpected happened for me. I have always been scrupulously quiet at the cinema. Clucking disapprovingly at anyone still talking by the time the lights had dimmed. But for the first time ever, at this screening, I felt liberated. This time, I could sit back and rustle through my popcorn to my heart’s content without having to wait for a loud bit in the movie. I could clear my throat or talk to F., knowing that there would be no chorus of disapproval. So aside from missing a couple of lines from the movie due to the volume level of the film being kept lower than usual, I thoroughly enjoyed this baby screening.
Dads note, it did help that, when V. started to need a bit more comforting, F. let me watch his movie and took our daughter to the back of the auditorium or out to the lobby a few times. There was a 10% turn-out of dads in the audience and I didn’t see one of them take off up the aisle with a screaming baby. I would agree in advance who’s doing that particular chore and when.
By the end of the movie (better than Quantum, not as good as Casino), I was sold on the idea of baby screenings. It helps if the movie isn’t too erudite, but with a coffee and cheesecake served at your seat as part of the ticket price, you can’t ask for more.
As we made our way out of the cinema, we saw unused seats, aisles and laps transformed into makeshift changing tables. Breastfeeding and bottle feeding were all over the auditorium. And be prepared for the chaotic pram parking in the lobby; it was painful trying to get out of the building.