Remember the sheer joy and excitement of your early outings to the movie theater? That unmistakable whiff of freshly made popcorn, the huge auditorium and giant screen, the sense of anticipation as the lights dimmed and the presentation began.
That was how it was supposed to be for children at the Empire Cinema in Ipswich, England, last Saturday. But things didn’t quite turn out as planned.
They were there to see their favorite characters in Peppa Pig: Festival of Fun, a cheerful animated offering for kids ages 2 to 7.
Expecting to see trailers aimed at a similar demographic, the audience instead found itself watching ads for two R-rated horror movies, a gaffe that left some of the kids in tears and parents wondering what on earth was going on.
The trailers were for Ma, a psychological horror about a teenage dream that turns into “a terrorizing nightmare,” and Brightburn, described as “a superhero horror” (trailer above).
Charlie Jones had taken along her 2-year-old daughter, Annie, for what was her very first movie theater experience, according to a BBC report about the unfortunate incident.
“I tried to cover her eyes during the trailers and told her they were silly films for mummies and daddies, but there were lots of kids crying and she was very confused and started crying, too,” Jones said.
She told the BBC she was furious with the manager of the theater, adding, “I don’t think he understands the impact of it.”
“You go to the cinema and you expect it to be a safe family day out, you don’t expect her to be exposed to anything which could do harm,” Jones said, adding that her daughter had been behaving in a “subdued” manner since the visit.
Responding to the regrettable blunder, a spokesperson for Empire Cinemas said, “As soon as the staff on site were made aware of the situation, the program was stopped and trailers were taken off-screen immediately.
It added: “We do sincerely apologize for this and for any distress caused and will be reviewing our internal procedures to ascertain how this came to be.”
Bizarrely, there’s been at least one other mix-up similar to the one in Ipswich.
It happened in 2016 after the manager of a movie theater in Concord, California, swapped screens to accommodate increased numbers arriving for the Pixar animation Finding Dory. The result? The theater forgot to change the trailers, and accidentally showed one for Seth Rogen’s R-rated Sausage Party.