Colorado Shooting & Babies In the Movie Theater: Should Kids See Adult Flicks?

While last week’s senseless Dark Knight Rising massacre in a Colorado theater has everyone talking about gun control, mental illness and alleged shooter James Holmes’s failed educational exploits, I have to admit: I’m still a little stuck on how many babies were in the midnight showing that ended in mayhem and murder.

First off, let me be very clear: My bringing this up does not negate my anger toward the killer, my sympathy for the victims or my empathy for the parents whose children were hurt and killed in the melee; I pray there is justice in the case and that Holmes pays the ultimate price for his reign of terror on innocents who were senselessly cut down while enjoying one of our nation’s simplest pleasures: taking in a movie.

Still, I believe there is room for questions, a myriad of observations and a full range of emotions at times like these, when our nation’s collective consciousness is challenged. And I have to tell you, I’m sure I’m not the only one wondering why in the world there were little babies and under-aged kids at a violent, loud, PG-13 Batman movie in the middle of the night, when they should have been tucked in their beds with their stuffed animals and blankies, visions of Doc McStuffins and Dora dancing in their heads.

To be fair, I get it: I have kids. Life changed when they were born. Babysitters were expensive. My parents lived in another state so convenient, free, family help was pretty much non-existent. Concessions had to be made. None of them really welcomed, but all of them, in our home, completely necessary. Late night bar hops became 2 a.m. breastfeedings, quiet dinners at elegant restaurants became early suppers at kid-friendly eateries, romantic vacations for two took a backseat to family jaunts to the zoo, the aquarium and Disney and yes, evening and late-night viewings of adult movies stopped altogether, replaced by Netflix and matinee showings of Shrek and Finding Nemo when my daughters were old enough to sit reasonably quiet in a movie theater for a two-hour stretch without kicking the backs of neighboring seats, loudly asking questions about what was unfolding up on the screen and needing to make bathroom runs every half hour. This was the price we paid for being parents—grown ups who decided to have little humans who needed the kind of attention and care and nurturing that required us to put their kid needs ahead of some of our adult needs. At least for a little while.

In other words, there just wasn’t ever a time when we thought it would be a good idea to take the kids to adult movies—whether it was noon, 9 p.m. or midnight. Period. And to this day, it gets my goat when, on our extremely rare adult date movie nights, we settle into the theater seat with the fake-buttered popcorn and the overpriced slurpie and all through the doggone movie, there’s a screaming baby or a restless toddler or a scared six-year-old crying and fidgeting and talking all through a movie that’s meant FOR ADULTS. It’s not fair to the kids. It’s not fair to their parents. And it’s not fair to us fellow moviegoers, who laid out all that cash to get away from our kids, only to have to suffer through the behavior of someone else’s child.

Of course, none of the parents who took their children to the Colorado movie theater—some were just months old, some were toddlers, some were tweens, one, a six-year-old, died—could have ever expected that a gunman would shoot up the place. And anyone who suggests that their parents got what they deserved because they brought their kids to an opening weekend, midnight showing of Dark Knight Rising—as was suggested on a few stories I read this weekend—should have their tongue lashed with a spiked belt. God bless the dead—the injured. Their families. But please, folk: a nighttime adult movie is no place for children. It’s just not that serious. And the day when kids will be old enough to enjoy a racy, adult movie in the middle of the night will get here sooner than you think. Sooner than you’ll be ready for. Trust.


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Denene Millner

Mom. NY Times bestselling author. Pop culture ninja. Unapologetic lover of shoes, bacon and babies. Nice with the verbs. Founder of the top black parenting website, MyBrownBaby.


  1. You only voiced what many of us thought upon hearing about the number of children injured or killed. I kept re-watching it until it registered that this tragedy really occurred at after midnight, but took in consideration that most of the audience consisted of young adults.

    I know no one fathomed something so horrible happening and my prayers are with the families of the deceased and the victims. My heart hurts for them and I’m sure if they could change the course that led up to the decision of attending, they would.

  2. I don’t understand what is going on at the movies lately. I went recently to see Magic Mike at 11 am on a Saturday with one of my girlfriends, and there was a 3 yr old-ish little girl in the theater. Every time my husband and I have gone on a date night to the movies lately, there are little kids at night in grown-up movies. We’ve been disturbed and appalled time and again. I just don’t understand why all these parents think its a good idea to bring little kids into violent movies. Yeah, my 4 yr old boy wants to see Avengers and Batman, but there is no way in hell I’m letting him watch them. He’s little and doesn’t understand the difference between fantasy and reality. Frankly, I’m still dealing with the affects of Kung Fu Panda 2 and his need to karate-chop anything that moves. I seriously don’t need him thinking picking up a gun and blowing people up are normal. Why aren’t other parents aware of the impact their decisions are making on their children’s psyche?

  3. This post voiced everything I have been thinking about the tragedy, in fact I just came back from lunch w/ a co-worker discussing this very topic. Right On, on all points!

  4. When my oldest was five months old, and we’d had about all we could of being cooped up at home with an infant, we went to see Jumanji in a late night showing after Hubby got home from evening meetings. We weren’t big on baby sitters and still aren’t nearly 18 years later (and we’ve chosen to miss a lot of things as a result.) The movie was more adult than not, and VERY loud. I timed it so that Baby Boy got a bottle just before the previews began, and despite the blaring soundtrack–I thought sure he’d wake up screaming!–he slept through the whole thing. I don’t think we took him to the theater again for another year at least and by then, we’d started the kiddie movie thing.

    Perhaps some parents could have made different choices. Perhaps some parents made choices that look bad on the surface but we don’t know the whole story.

  5. Angela Akinniyi

    So many selfish parents these days. What a shame! I thought the same thing when I heard about the kids and baby in the theater. Some parents I suppose, just don’t have a clue these days.

  6. Im sure I will stand out when I say, I don’t see a problem with taking an infant (infant, not toddler, not 6yr old) to a late night movie. If that is the only time you have available & you know your infant then doing that is fine. I also see no problem with taking my then 4yr old to see Avengers, our children know fantasy from real life because we talk about it with them all the time. Even as we sit & watch the movies, yes some scenes are pretty scary. But so are scenes from all the Disney shows we allow them to watch.

    But each parent, parents differently. And I was raised where I was shielded from everything & had to learn the hard way. I’m raising my kiddos to be shielded from some, but teach through & about the rest. No sense in having a naive child. Not to mention our children are your typical innocent children, we play board games, sit down to eat as a family & have no television weeks (not days) and we just got a game system & they still don’t play it.

  7. I agree with everything you said. I get upset when I see little ones out late at night – I think they should be sleeping….

  8. I think the noise alone would be very upsetting to an infant. I can’t imagine what a 3-year-old would feel watching such a violent movie. I saw the Dark Knight, not seen this one yet. I can’t imagine a small child watching this or the current one.

  9. I hear a lot of judgments being passed and frankly no one has the right to do so. I once took my son when he was about six months old to a jazz band event and my brother-in-law was concerned the music would be too loud and I kindly pointed out that it was no louder than the church choir music! And, I don’t think people stop taking their children to church for fear the loud music, adult “topics”, etc are going to corrupt their kids. Now, I know you realize this is definitely tongue-in-cheek but I hope you all get the point.

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