Autistic children and adults who may love watching movies but dread the movie theatre can now enjoy new releases in an autism-friendly theatre environment. Several cinemas in the US and UK are offering monthly showings in an auditorium suitable for an autistic audience. The autism-friendly auditorium will have dimmed lights (rather than complete dark), reduced volume, and no trailers or advertisements. Autistic moviegoers can bring their own gluten and casein-free snacks, and they are totally free to get up and walk around. In fact, moving around, dancing, shouting, and singing during the show are encouraged.
AMC Theatres is one of the chains in America who have strongly supported and quickly implemented screenings that accommodate people on the autism spectrum. They have worked together with Autism Society of America to roll out the Sensory Friendly Films program, which will provide a maximized cinema experience for people with special needs. As referenced on their website, the Sensory Friendly Films program got its start from a parent in Columbia, MD, who asked about a special screening. As a result, over 300 people made it for the first showing. AMC lists on the their website the participating theatres nationwide.
In the Fylde district of Lancashire, England, The Island cinema, the one and only cinema in Fylde’s, has shown several autism-friendly films. After posting their plan to offer autism-friendly screenings on facebook, they received around 7,000 hits, indicating a widespread interest in screenings suitable for an autistic audience. Just like its counterpart in America, The Island cinema also lowers the volume and turns on dim lighting.
The Island cinema is not the only theatre in England to offer autism-friendly screenings. The British not-for-profit organization, Dimensions, has announced autism-friendly films in partnership with three participating cinema chains, Cineworld, ODEON, and Vue. There will be a screening every month, each cinema showing a different film. The auditorium will have lights on low and volume turned down. Moviegoers can bring their own food and beverages, and they can get up and walk around during the film. No previews or advertisements will show before the feature film. Family and friends of autistic moviegoers are welcome to the screenings as well.
For any questions regarding the autism-friendly screenings, Dimensions has a FAQ page available on their website. There is also a search feature on the Autism Directory which lists autism-friendly screenings throughout the UK. While not offered on a regular basis, other theatres in Canada and Australia are also becoming more receptive to providing families with autistic children special screenings of films.