In this theatre, cell phones won’t bother you, but barking might

Damien Spandley and his dog Jeff leave the cinema after attending a screening of “Strays” at the Curzon Aldgate cinema in London on Saturday, August 19, 2023. (Mary Turner/The New York Times)

LONDON – Cap, a two-year-old Doberman in a blue bandana, looks very worried.

Sometimes called “the brownie”, he is the size and weight of a teenager and has the same energy. For now, one of his owners, Louisa Fulcher, is leading him around the courtyard of a cinema in east London in order to relieve his stress and allow him a final bathroom break before he and a handful of other dogs prepare for something extraordinary: their first movie experience.

Last weekend, Curzon Cinemas, a 16-screen chain in the UK, began allowing dogs to attend certain shows with their owners, starting with Strays, an expletive-laden live-action comedy that follows a group of dogs (voiced by actors). . Like Will Ferrell and Jamie Foxx) who band together to get revenge on their owner.

London is a haven for dogs, and they are often seen at their owners’ feet in restaurants, pubs, trains, and many other public places. Movie theaters may be the next place to welcome dogs, thanks in part to the pandemic.

And in the UK, with a population of about 67 million, there are an estimated 11 million pet dogs, according to a report released this year by the People’s Dispensary for Sick Animals, a veterinary charity. Pet ownership has skyrocketed during the pandemic, and now that workers are encouraged to return to the office, some pets and their owners are having a hard time transitioning.

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“A lot of people have decided to get dogs during the pandemic and want to come see a movie with their pets,” said Jake Garioc, Curzon’s head of publicity. He said the new shows are part of a larger program designed to allow customers to watch movies in ways that work best for them, such as children’s shows with lower volume and brighter lighting.

Rebecca Minty and her dog Lottie attend a movie screening

Rebecca Minty and her dog Lottie attend a screening of “Strays” at the Curzon Aldgate cinema in London on Saturday, August 19, 2023. (Mary Turner/The New York Times)

For now, Curzon only allows dogs of any breed at one show a week, at one of the chain’s London locations, according to Garioc. (And no, you don’t have to buy tickets for dogs.) They are not allowed on the benches and the owners must clean up any accidents.

Curzon isn’t the only one that’s dog-friendly. Picturehouse Cinemas, another British chain, has been doing dog-friendly shows since 2015, and there are many independent cinemas in the UK that do too. (However, most movie theaters only allow service dogs.)

Back offstage, Fulcher said he had brought a bone for Kapp, who was now groaning for attention and comically jumping at a reporter.

Commenting on the new shows in the cinema, he said: “I think it’s a great idea, because pets are now part of the family.” “They’re not just pets anymore. They’re like your little one.”

For other dog owners, expectations bring new freedom. Ziad Dajani says he and his partner haven’t gone to the cinema together in four years because of Tarshin, their 8-year-old Australian Labradoodle, who suffers from separation anxiety. “We are basically their hostages,” Dajani said. “We can’t leave him alone even for a minute. Someone has to be with him the whole time.”

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Other dog owners were in line to buy treats before the show, including Rebecca Minty and her daughter. With them was Lottie, who was lying on the floor undisturbed by anything or anyone. Minty said Lottie, a 7-year-old non-working working poodle, was taken in for a long time before going to the hospital so she could be calm.

Inside, the prominence was like everything else, except for the collar band and the occasional bark. The sound level in the movie has also been lowered.

“It is important that theaters turn down sound at dog-friendly shows, otherwise sound can cause distress and even pain,” Catherine Pollack, veterinarian and vice president of Humane International, said in a statement. “In principle, it’s like theaters that put on kid-friendly shows, also lower the volume and accept that there’s likely to be a certain level of discomfort.”

Paget Fulcher, Kapp’s other owner, stated after the show that Kapp had done well despite the difficulties. “He was lying on the floor most of the time, playing with a toy we brought him,” he said. “Everything was fine. Nothing bad happened. I think we’re very happy with the way things turned out.”

The dog’s behavior in the home provides clues as to how the animal will handle the movie’s exposure, according to Graeme Hall, British dog trainer known as “The Godfather” and host of the Netflix show “Very Rude Dogs.”

“Some dogs seem to like watching TV and others don’t,” said Hall, who advised watching the dog for signs of stress, such as screaming, yawning, lip licking and ear flapping.

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He also said that dogs follow their owners’ reactions. “We know that dogs constantly notice our facial expressions, our body language, the little sounds we make, and even our breathing,” he explained. “If you’re having a good time, your dog will probably pick it up.”

Garioc admitted that not everyone will enjoy watching a movie with dogs in the audience.

“Obviously, there are a lot of shows that dogs just wouldn’t boycott,” he said. “If you prefer cats, you can go elsewhere than the outlook.”

C.2023 The New York Times Company

Terry Alexander

"Award-winning music trailblazer. Gamer. Lifelong alcohol enthusiast. Thinker. Passionate analyst."

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