When the baby boom generation was young, Hollywood turned out a steady stream of movies geared to young tastes, like Son of Flubber (1963) and The Love Bug (1969). But by the mid-'70s, when most boomers were in their teens or beyond, kids' pictures had almost vanished from theaters, replaced by another sensation, the teen movie. Now that the economically powerful baby boom generation is raising families of its own, kids are back on the movie screens. Along with Home Alone and Three Men and a Little Lady, the upcoming Kindergarten Cop and Look Who's Talking Too should put films featuring kids among the top money-makers this holiday season.
''Baby boomers are looking to share the experience of being at a movie with their children,'' explains Martin Grove, box-office analyst and columnist for the Hollywood Reporter. ''And films with children in them are what these audiences want to see they can identify with what's happening up on the screen.''
The trend began in 1987 with Baby Boom, in which Diane Keaton plays a yuppie who inherits an infant, and Three Men and a Baby, which earned $167 million. In '89, Look Who's Talking ($126 million), and Parenthood ($98 million) proved that toilet training and messy feedings could go head to head at the box office with cops and crooks.
This year's crop of kid movies features children somewhat older than the babies who started it all much like the offspring of the baby boomers themselves, movie kids are growing up. And this boomlet of kid flicks will continue. The coming months will bring Radio Flyer, the story of two boys with an active fantasy life; Dutch, about a 14-year-old stuck on a long car trip with his mother's boyfriend; Bingo!, a comedy about a dog and his friends; and the sequels to Problem Child and Honey, I Shrunk the Kids. ''There is a much bigger audience for family entertainment than there is for violence and sex,'' says Grove. ''And Hollywood is finally catching on to it.''