CHERRY HILL, N.J. – Santa Claus is free again.
A New Jersey mall on Monday eliminated a requirement that parents pay $35 to $50 for a photo or video package for their kids to get into a Santa exhibit.
The decision to charge for an attraction that had been free last year sparked anger from many parents, some who said the fee inherently pushed away low-income families and ran counter to the spirit of the holiday.
"He's locked up in his castle," Elsa Anzideo, a Voorhees mother of two daughters, complained to The Philadelphia Inquirer. "You can't even see Santa."
The mall said it was lifting the fee for Adventure to Santa because it wanted to keep things festive in the spirit of the holiday season.
"We have heard and value our loyal customers' feedback and as a result, have decided to remove the photo package purchase requirements," the mall said.
The mall's North Pole exhibit features a large enclosure with digital panels for walls that block views of jolly old Saint Nick.
Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, which manages the mall, said the exhibit is one of only 12 Adventure to Santa attractions in the country.
"I probably would have paid that much for pictures this year," Sulaiha Bitar, a Voorhees mother of three, said before PREIT switched course. "It's just the fact that they're charging me for something that was free last year, something that should be free."
The display features characters from the Shrek movies as well as a virtual sleigh ride, a concert performed by elves, and various games.