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Historic Hyde Park: Theater's baby flicks a timeout for parents

A new program provides a morning out at the movies for parents and their babies - diapers, bottles, even crying accepted.

By GRACE AGOSTIN
Published June 4, 2004

Going to the movies at Madstone Theaters is no longer just about finding a good seat. On Wednesday mornings, it's about finding a good spot to park a stroller, too.

Madstone recently introduced BYOB - Bring Your Own Baby - a chance for mothers, fathers and caregivers to bring their infants and toddlers to the movies without having to worry about disturbing others.

"It's amazing how many moms say, "I haven't been to the movies since my baby was born,' " said Margaret Murray, general manager of Madstone Theaters.

To keep parents and their kids happy, Madstone lowers the volume and turns up the lights. "I try to keep it focused on a good experience for the babies," she said.

Madstone hosts BYOB at 10:30 a.m. every other Wednesday. It picks movies that are suitable for children but that parents would enjoy. Before each film, Gymboree offers baby activities in the lobby.

"It's nice to be able to see a movie with my baby and people understand if he cries," said Ashley Rideout of Dunedin, who attended last week's showing of Shrek 2 with her 10-month-old son, Tristan.

Bring Your Own Baby started April 14 with one mother but has gained popularity and now attracts at least 30 mothers, Murray said. If attendance continues to grow, Madstone may expand the program to every Wednesday.

About 40 moms and a few dads attended the May 26 show. A couple of dozen strollers lined the back wall and aisles. Mothers fed their children formula and Cheerios. Conversations about babies filled the theater.

"It's like a nursery in there," one male employee said.

BYOB started from a suggestion by Madstone customer Hydee Bassel, who had heard of a similar program.

"My friends in New York were telling me about these mommy movies and I got jealous," said Bassel of South Tampa, who brings her 5-month-old son, Parker.

Since coming to the screenings for the past month, it has become a good place for her to socialize with other mothers, she said.

"It's really important as a new mom to be able to get out," Bassel said. "Everyone is in the same place . . . you don't have to worry if the baby gets fussy."

- Grace Agostin can be reached at 226-3434 or gagostin@sptimes.com

If you go

Bring Your Own Baby, a movie time for moms, dads and their babies, continues Wednesday at Madstone Theaters, 1609 W Swann Ave. Check a few days in advance for the film title. Tickets are $6. Babies are free. For information, call 258-5640 or go to www.madstonetheaters.com

[Last modified June 3, 2004, 11:28:27]

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