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What age can you expect a child to happily sit through a movie at the theatre and do you have tips to make this a good experience for both children and parents (e.g. which movie to pick, what to do if they are bored after 5 minutes, etc.)?

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5 Answers 5

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My kids all did fine from about the age of 3. The only real way to know which movie to pick is by seeing what they like at home. My kids all have wildly different taste in movies, so usually I take them one at a time. Sometimes they get bored during exposition, but just require a quiet reminder from me.

You can't really judge it by how much they sit still to watch a movie at home. At home, my six year old son only lasts around 10 minutes before he wants to get up and act out the parts or run around or something, but in a theater he does pretty well because I'm there to refocus him.

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This varies so much from child to child I'm not sure their is a useful answer other than just to try them. In a worst case you will have wasted a few pounds/dollars/euro etc and have to leave early.

My eldest enjoyed films from about 4, but my middle daughter was not a fan until she was about 6. I remember taking her about her fifth birthday and she wandered off under the seats in front for a while. We weren't worried as it was an empty cinema and we could hear her, but when she returned chewing on a sweet she had found we decided not to take her back until she had a better attention span. My youngest has watched films since before she was 3 and could always concentrate for an entire film. I think she picked this up through exposure via her siblings. . .

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What age can you expect a child to happily sit through a movie

It depends on how much media consumption they've been trained to handle. My 3½ year old watches about five minutes of TV per day, just one episode of Barbapapa before bed. He wouldn't last long in a cinema. On the other hand, some pre-schoolers spend between one and three hours per day in front of the TV so for them a cinema trip would be nothing out of the ordinary. (Effects of that is discussed here and here.)

If you think there's a chance your kids will be bored (or mentally overloaded) after five minutes, then they're not ready for the cinema. They need to be able to concentrate (not start fussing) for at least an hour. As DA01 said, be ready, prepared and willing to leave the cinema at a moment's notice.

which movie to pick

Adhere to the advisory ratings; they do serve a meaningful purpose. Pick a movie that is truly aimed at the age of your kids. Too often I see parents with very young kids going into Disney-category movies that are way beyond them. You're not doing them any favors when choosing titles aimed above their age.

Pre-screen the movie yourself. Go and see it yourself, all of it, to make sure there aren't any unwanted surprises that you'll have to sort out later. (Try this one on for size: Did you know that Disney's Bambi essentially begins with the death of Bambi's mother?)

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1  
Don't you think you are being a tad judgmental? Also, there's no Toy Story 4, and no plans to make one. –  drxzcl Apr 2 '13 at 19:46
    
@drxzcl: Edited and linked. –  Torben Gundtofte-Bruun Apr 3 '13 at 6:53

It really depends entirely on the child. As for:

what to do if they are bored after 5 minutes

Leave. Be prepared to NOT make it through the entire film and be OK leaving early if need be. That takes a lot of stress out of the whole process.

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I saw Fantasia at around 4 or 5. Can't remember that exact age, but I still remember seeing it.

If all you're looking for is that your child "sits quietly", my kids sat quietly through a movie at 2 and 3. if you want a "take home" value I think 4 or 5 is a good age.

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