Meet the parents of Brooke Alexandria. Chuck and Deb Lembach have already taken their 3-month-old daughter, a blue-eyed jewel traveling in a cozy baby sling, to the movies four times. She slept through "The Patriot."
But Brooke is getting a little old to reliably snooze through the flicks. She might decide instead to gibber or bawl at an inopportune moment. "People might get angry," says Deb Lembach, a freelance writer. "It's risky."
That's why she and her husband, who works for Nextel Communications, were psyched about "Baby's Night at the Movies," a new series co-sponsored by General Cinemas at Towson Commons and Greater Baltimore Medical Center. Once a week through Nov. 21, the theater will welcome stir-crazy parents and their infants - diaper bags, binkies, blankies and all - to see a movie among kindred spirits.
Nursing? No problem. Colic? We've been there. Running amok in the aisles? Join the crowd.
The film series launched last Tuesday with the first-run comedy hit "Meet the Parents," and an audience numbering 112, wee ones included, turned up.
The Lembachs, who live in White Marsh, were the first to arrive at Towson Commons. There they would meet four other parents with babies, including a couple with 10-week-old twin boys. They are all friends Deb met online at BabyCenter.com.
News of the movie series, an idea borrowed from two theaters in California - where children are introduced to cinema early - had spread quickly through the at-home-parent community. There were fliers, community newspaper mentions, free tickets given out at a Borders story hour. The cinema was tossing them a life buoy, a chance to get out of the house without having to worry about a baby sitter, which costs a fortune these days anyway. From Stoneleigh to White Marsh to Fells Point, all the neighborhood moms were talking about it.
For the most part, babies don't attend the movies, says Towson Commons theater manager Randy Marvel. And when they do, babies and their parents may be asked "politely" to step out to the lobby when they disturb another guest.
But not on Tuesdays. On this night, the staff will go all out to welcome them, with pink and blue helium balloons and three valets detailed to the parents' designated parking area in the garage.
Assistant theater manager Keith S. Shipley and his crew prepared for the baby onslaught by installing changing tables in both bathrooms and supplying them with "little wipies." He trained his adolescent employees "to tolerate kids."
The word "grateful" comes to mind while debriefing some of those who arrived with their infants in strollers, baby buggies, Snuglis and car carriers, for the 7:15 p.m. show. "This is the first movie we've been to in seven and a half months," says Shelly Plasse, whose 7-month-old son, Jake, was grinning away in her arms. Plasse and her husband, Keith, of Lutherville, aren't ready to leave their child with a sitter.
"It's odd to be out [at night]; he goes to bed at 8," Shelly Plasse says of Jake, who's wearing a new pair of jammies with built-in booties. "He'll be out right before the movie," she predicts confidently.
Shelly Plasse wasn't picky about the film, just as long as she could get out of the house. "I don't care what they're playing ... Even if it was that football movie [`Remember the Titans']; I didn't care."
Just then Noble Lippy, 17 months, of Fells Point, entered the lobby with his parents Michael and Antonette, who haven't been to the movies since she was pregnant. Young Lippy was one of the few guests who could walk.
Towson's Katie Walsh, 11 months and clutching a Beanie Baby, came with her mother, Mia Walsh. Her aunt, Lisa Potthast, was there as well. She has children, too, but had the night off and left them at home with their dad. Before Katie was born, her parents, who are big cinema buffs, went to the movies every week, her mom recalls. But their last movie outing was "Toy Story II" when Katie was 3 weeks old.
Soon, the lobby was teeming with tots. As one dad bought popcorn, his newborn snoozed in an extravagant baby carriage. A toddler named John kissed himself in a mirror while his mother, Mary-Rina Scribner, bought Junior Mints. "I don't know what to expect," Scribner said of the hours ahead. "He's not walking, but he's cruising."
Jeff and Judy Johnston were there with their 10-week-old twins, Aidan and Brendan. They eat every three to four hours around the clock, says dad. He stood by with supplementary bottles in case they got hungry simultaneously and mom could feed only one at a time.
Before the movie began, parents parked sleeping babies in the aisles and burped others. The small crowd seemed to cluster conveniently close to the exit. General Cinema spokesman Rich Dome welcomed the young audience and asked for volunteers to speak with a television reporter. "We want twins, we want twins," he announced.