Councils policing parent and baby film screenings to prevent ’emotional trauma’

Sitting down at cinema to watch the latest blockbusters with a bowl of popcorn in hand is a luxury many new mums struggle to fit in.

But thanks to the wonder of parent and baby screenings there’s no longer the need to make the choice between spending quality time with your bundle of joy and getting your fix of the latest Hollywood offerings.

And all seemed to be going well with this arrangement, until the news that councils have begun to police which films could be screened during this slot.

Bath and North East Somerset council rejected a licence application to screen 15- and 18-certificate films at mother-and-baby screenings at a Bath cinema.

Revealing their reasoning behind the decision they outlined that:

‘Children aged up to 24 months are at a prime stage of their brain development’.

Before continuing: ‘Toddlers can’t fully understand and interpret what they are seeing, but the images and sounds can be frightening and cause emotional trauma.’

The local authority also flagged that restraining a baby on their parent’s lap could cause physical or emotional harm.

But it seems that this not an isolated incident.

Earlier this year the Everyman cinema revealed that it can’t screen 15 or 18 certificate films at its Baby Club screenings in Oxted, Reigate, Esher and Walton due to ‘local restrictions’ – despite being able to do so in their London, Bristol, Leeds and Chelmsford branches.

Reacting to the above news at the time mum-of-two Emma Collings, 36, told Surrey Live, that she loved taking her baby along to the screenings before restrictions were put in place.

‘It is all so silly; my baby isn’t capable of understanding me, let alone a film,” she said.’

‘I love movies and two-and-a-half years ago when I had my first baby, I went to the Everyman all the time.

‘Now, Surrey cinemas are not allowed to show anything above a 12A whilst the rest of the UK are. It is just nonsense and it’s so patronising.’

In 2014 Dacorum Borough Council in Hertfordshire issued a warning to The Rex in Berkhamsted saying that they were breaking the law by allowing babies into films with adult themes.

Ross Hill, the council’s licensing chief, said at the time: ‘In the case of 15 or 18-rated films, this means no person under the age of 15 or 18 respectively may lawfully be admitted to the premises while such a film is being shown. The licensing laws do not contain any exemption from this requirement in respect of babies or young children.’

This move – which came after a single complaint – led to the cinema to cancel ling two scheduled screenings, and provoked an outcry from parents.

Among them was Cassie Goodison, 38, who attended with the mother-and-baby screening with four-month-old daughter Charlotte. She said at the time: ‘Parent-and-baby screenings have been a lifesaver. You feel you are getting your life back. To meet friends, have a coffee and watch a film is brilliant.

‘I am a responsible parent so I would not allow my two-year-old son to watch a 15 film but my daughter is too young to take it in. She does not watch the films, she is either sleeping or eating.’

In a 2013 Twitter Q&A the British Board for Film Classification confirmed that the ‘local council & the cinema will agree what films can be used for parent & baby screenings’.

This is because local authorities are responsible for granting each cinema its licence to show films under the Licensing Act. Hence the differences. Hence the regional differences mums are experiencing at parent-and-baby screenings.

What do you think of the move by councils? Have you attended a parent and baby screening where this was allowed? Join the conversation on our Facebook page.