Going to the Movies Shouldn’t be this Difficult

Apparently this is going to be something I have to rant about every year until we move and/or become fluent in German and/or G is old enough that this won’t be an issue anymore.

In case you didn’t know, Andy and I met while working in a movie theater in high school, way back in the summer of 2001. Back then, we saw almost all the movies, partly because they were free (nice) and partly because we had the time.

As we got older and had real jobs and busier lives, we didn’t see nearly as many movies, but still quite a few. We liked to see as many as we could.

Once G was born, our movie consumption was cut drastically. Once she turned two and we lifted our ban on screen-time, we started seeing movies again, but obviously it was a lot of kids’ movies. But that was fine. It was something we could do and enjoy as a family.

It’s way more difficult for us to do this in Switzerland.

There’s the language barrier. Since we don’t speak much German, we have to look for the limited English prints.

There’s the fact that we get movies later than the rest of the world, sometimes significantly so. Last summer we watched Inside Out in Paris because it didn’t open in German-speaking Switzerland until October 1st. And this year, while I’ve been seeing all my American friends with and without kids enjoying Finding Dory, we have to wait until September 29th for it to open here.

There’s the age issue. They have much stricter rules about children watching movies here. They will not sell you a ticket for a child under the age of 4. Period. End of story.


Almost the end of the story.

Because in addition to that four-year-old minimum across the board, every canton and/or movie theater can set their own minimum age requirements.

All of these factors have culminated in today’s complaint:

We want to take G to see The Secret Life of Pets because that’s the children’s movie that opens here this month. (Ice Age: Collision Course came out last month; Secret Life of Pets this month; then Finding Dory in September.)

So I pull up the Cineman website to check showtimes and this is what I find:

Screenshot 2016-07-29 at 3.52.45 PM

The first thing I check for is language; I need it to say “E/d/f.” Then I need one that is not in 3D because the minimum age for a 3D movie is 6.

So there is one showing in Basel that meets these requirements and it is at 9 PM.


This isn’t a huge blockbuster movie that requires a million showtimes a day, a la Harry Potter. This is just an animated children’s movie. And you’re showing it once a day at 9 PM?

Why even show it at all?

So I checked Cineman to see what our options would be in, say, Zürich. Andy’s off work for vacation this week (because we should have been leaving for Hong Kong tomorrow), so why not make a day trip on the train to Zürich and, among other activities, go see a movie?

Screenshot 2016-07-29 at 3.56.04 PM

Same theater chain, different canton. Minimum age of 6, even for 2D showings.

G is tall and she can pass for older than 4, but I don’t think she can pass for 6. And if they doubt us, they can demand to see her ID card, which would obviously betray us immediately.

I’m just so frustrated. It’s annoying and illogical and dumb.

Oh, and as for Finding Dory? We could actually go see a special “sneak peek” of it on August 10th at an outdoor theater. It would start after 9, but that makes sense, since it stays light so late here. But it’s of course in German. I don’t know that I want to keep G up so late and spend CHF 30 to go see a movie that I can only half understand. (Although CHF 30 is cheap for the three of us to see a movie here…)

19 thoughts on “Going to the Movies Shouldn’t be this Difficult

  1. Holy guac that’s ridiculous! E just saw his first 2 movies- it IS enjoyable even if everything is animated! I still however want to see Bad Moms as a guilty pleasure… I’ll laugh at all the parts that are secretly true about me 😜👈🏻❗️

  2. I’ve been thinking about this too. My yo loves Finding Nemo so would like to take him to see Finding Dory. I assumed all kids’ films would be dubbed because most Swiss children wouldn’t be able to read yet and they wouldn’t speak English. That seems fair. The age restriction is a bit odd tho!!

  3. I know — we didn’t see any more films in the theater after an unpleasant age-related squabble when my eldest was 4…. She’s now 7 but it’s so bloody expensive to see films in the theater that we just wait until it comes out on DVD and then get it off a bit torrent site. shrug. We will def go see Finding Dory in English in ZH though if you guys want to team up 😀

  4. Give a try to something: go, buy a family ticket and take her with and smile confidently while going in. Worse case is that they reject you and you ask for reimbursement. My take: no one will bother checking. We are free, remember that. 🙂

    • I would totally do that. In this case, though, the bigger issue is that the movie is only playing at 9 PM, which is 2 hours past her bedtime. That’s way too late for a little kid!

      • It’s interesting to note that on the French speaking side we typically have most of the cartoons also at around 3 or 4 in the afternoon.

      • I was super surprised by the time. We haven’t run into that particular issue before this film.

        I looked in Saint Louis and didn’t find any showings that would work for us. The French part of the country also tends to get movies earlier than the German part.

  5. I hear you 😦 It’s a nightmare. Even though German is our first language, we don’t like the movies in German. So much of the original wit gets lost. There are not many cinemas that show movies in the original language, and if they do, they have ridiculous age restrictions and/or show times.
    I remember taking Colin and his buddy to see Disney Planes, and it said kids needed to be 6 years old, so I explained the concept of “desperate times call for desperate measures” and that sometimes a little cheating doesn’t hurt, and we trained their “adjusted” dob in case the cashier was gonna ask…
    Usually not too long after movies arrive in Swiss cinemas, DVDs are available, too. And guess what, no age restricions 😛

  6. What a ridiculous time. Tag the movie company with this on twitter. Tweet it repeatedly. So silly. 😦 And yeah, I miss movie going.

  7. So I’m going to be annoying and make this all about me 🙂 my four year old still can’t even watch an episode of Postman Pat or Thomas and Friends because it is so emotional for him. Too much tension when things go wrong (which they have to for any story to function, really). Frozen? Totally traumatised for hours — literally — after the first two minutes. Nemo? Cars? Anything? Total no go. If they had a full-length feature of YouTube clips of steam trains, or someone building Lego, that would be fab 😉 I hope that perhaps when he is six, we will be able to watch something with some kind of narrative!

    (P.S. 9pm?! Friggin ridiculous.)

    • Aww, poor little man!

      The only movie that G has really had an issue with was The Good Dinosaur (Arlo & Spot here in CH). That movie was INTENSE and she watched the entire thing from my lap.

  8. After reading this, I took my 5yo to see Secret Life of Pets in English. I was actually surprised how many of the kids films were available in English here!! He is not particularly tall for his age but they didn’t ask, phew! It was a nice experience although I didn’t really rate the film 😉 The cinema was full of Brits/ Americans, Aussies, Kiwis, heh.

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