As the lights go down, the Theme front Shaft begins to pulse inside the Parkway Speakeasy Theater in Oakland. But Isaac Hayes’s voice isn’t the only one filling the room. Also piping up is 8-month-old Elizabeth Legg, whose gurgling at mom Kristin, 34, goes unshushed by nearby moviegoers. That’s because on Monday nights the Parkway is home to Baby-Brigade, a rare opportunity for parents to see a big-screen movie with their babies in tow. “My wife and I wouldn’t get to the movies if it weren’t for this,” notes Legg’s husband, Jon, 36.
Catherine Campbell Fischer, 36, who co-owns the Parkway Theater with her husband, Kyle, 37, knows that well. She came up with the idea for infant-friendly evenings in 1998 after her sister Julie had a baby and found she was no longer welcome at most theaters. “My sister said, I really wish there was a place I could go with my child and not be treated like a pariah,’ ” recalls Fischer.
Now the Parkway is that place, complete with changing tables and comfy love seats where moms can nurse. At $5 a ticket (babies get in free), Baby Brigade has become so popular that the Fischers have added Thrillville Nursery on Tuesdays, where they screen B movies and horror flicks. If things get too noisy? “I go into the film booth and turn up the volume,” says manager Dave Ortiz. But because only infants are allowed (after age 1 the kids are harder to contain, says Fischer), parents like Pam Molsick, the mother of 11-month-old twin daughters, may soon be doing some wailing of their own. “They only have a few movies left,” she says sadly. “I’m going to cry when we can’t come.”