Bristol cinema’s special parent and baby screenings stopped after one complaint

A Bristol cinema has had to cancel the programme of showing films to parents with babies that it has run for 15 years – because one person complained to the council that the films weren’t suitable for children.

The Watershed arts venue in Bristol’s harbourside started special screenings of its cultural film programme back in 2007, with films shown for parents or carers with babes-in-arms – children who are under one year.

But now, the Cinébabies programme is in doubt because the city council – who act as the licensing authority for cinemas in the city – received a complaint from one person that the Watershed’s programme involved showing films certified as 15 or 18 with children there.

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And the council has told the Watershed that it can no longer include any film with a 15 or 18 certificate as part of the Cinébabies programme – only films that are classified as a 12A or under.

A bemused spokesperson for the Watershed said the whole point of the Cinébabies initiative is that it allowed new parents or carers to see films and get involved in the art cinema’s cultural film programme, and the babies aren’t actually watching – they are only a few months old, after all.

“The basis of the screenings is that they are for the parents and carers – but that they have their babies with them,” they said. “To accommodate the baby part – as they are not watching the film – we show the films with the volume lower and the lights brighter to create a more relaxed atmosphere. The babies are variously being fed, being changed, sleeping or crawling on the floor with the parents keeping an eye on the film but also socialising with like-minded new parents.

“Like many cinemas across the UK we have programmed Cinébabies titles from our new release programme and have never restricted what these titles are (ie picked lower certificate films or ones that are more ‘family’ focussed) as it is the adults who are going to be watching the film who are making the decisions about what they want to see,” they added.

(Image: Bristol Live)

But the complaint was made to the council, and that has, for now at least, scuppered plans for the Cinébabies programme to continue because, at the moment, the Watershed doesn’t have any 12A or U films on its current schedule.

“Whilst the licensing authority are sympathetic to the intention of the Cinebabies screenings in giving new parents access to the full range of our film programme, the licensing is directly linked to the British Board of Film Classification (BBFC) system,” the spokesperson from the Watershed explained. “This means at present we are only able to show 12A (or under) certificate films for Cinebabies whilst we continue conversations and discussions around what we can do to resolve this matter.

“Unfortunately none of our current films are lower than a 15 certificate which is why we are unable to present a Cinebabies screening this week,” they added.

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