The movie might be about to begin, but the lights won’t be going down any time soon. A parking lot of prams by the door, a little light air conditioning and the volume set to gentle are clues to what is about to happen. Oh, and the rugrats scrambling around all over the place - its CineMaterna. Developed by three movie-going mums in 2008 in São Paulo, Cinematerna now operates in sixteen cities including Rio, where the special movie screenings for mothers and babies of up to 18 months are held once a week in Barra and Botafogo.
It all started when friends Alexandra Swets, 38, Tais Viana, 37, and Irene Nagashima, 39, began organizing trips to morning screenings with groups of mothers and their newborn babies when the cinemas were usually quieter and complaints less frequent. One fine day, however, they found their way barred by an overzealous ticket inspector, and so the idea of Cinematerna especially for new mums and their babies was born.
The three created the NGO in August 2008 in partnership with São Paulo movie theatres prepared to hold weekly sessions in special rooms during off-peak hours. For a year Alexandra, Tais and Irene bore the costs until they found sponsorship, and since then the project has expanded to Rio de Janeiro, Fortaleza, Salvador and Porto Alegre to name but a few. After the initial success, the plan has been to unveil CineMaterna in a new city every month.
"Fortunately the three of us were freelance professionals and could work from home. Alexandra is a journalist, i’m a marketing consultant and Irene a training consultant" said Tais. “When we got the sponsorship we had to dedicate our time to the NGO, travelling a lot to take CineMaterna to cities miles away from São Paulo like Porto Alegre and Fortaleza.”
The rooms are equipped with essentials like changing facilities and baby rugs with toys, but the focus of the fun is supposed to be on the mother. Camilla Mello, 27, confessed that she was a little nervous taking three-month old Alice for her first time; "I loved the idea though, i’m super excited about it," she said.
The films are chosen by mothers registered at www.cinematerna.org.br, and each week there is a new offering - Rio’s sessions take place fortnightly on Thursdays at 2pm in Botafogo Arteplex (R$16-$26), Cinemark in Barra and São Conrado's Fashion Mall and on average pull in around fifty adults. According to Tais there are now more than 19,000 people registered with the site as a whole and they plan to spread to other countries in Latin America.