AMC theaters expand Sensory Friendly Films program to provide unique showings


For many, watching movies in theaters is an enjoyable experience. However, theaters can often be too loud or too dark and may easily overwhelm those with autism. In addition, the need to remain silent during a movie is another discomfort they may face.

Nine years ago, AMC partnered with the Autism Society to introduce a special kind of movie: sensory friendly films. However, only three months ago did this program finally come to theaters. According to the Autism Society, these custom films are geared toward people who face autism and other sensory overloading disabilities. The Autism Society also states that AMC’s sensory friendly films have brighter lights and lower sounds than any other conventional film. Viewers are allowed to stand up, shout or make any noise during the movie that makes them feel comfortable. Just a month ago, AMC Castleton Square screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-25-06-pm14 introduced sensory friendly films to Hamilton County. 

Halle Throgmorton, Best Buddies member and sophomore, explained the implications of these sensory friendly films.

“By having the sound down and the lights up, (sensory friendly films) create a more comfortable, friendly environment for (people with autism), especially for action packed movies with very loud sounds,” she said.

Austin Green, supervisor of AMC Castleton Square 14, oversees movie management. According to Green, sensory friendly films expand into multiple focuses, which would change every three months. These focuses each encompass a condition, such as autism. Green also said an additional feature to sensory friendly films is they allow viewers to bring in their own snacks for those who have a strict diet. He also mentioned this was the first time AMC has raised awareness of this kind.

“We decided to start this program because we want others to be more aware of autism so that people can understand the difficulties that these people face,” he said.

Throgmorton said, “These films would really help kids with autism who sometimes can have sensory overload, which can lead to meltdowns and feeling uncomfortable. Hearing a sound for them is like 20 times more amplified than for us.”

Rachel Anderson, Best Buddies member and senior, said she has seen those problems firsthand when, during a previous experience, she took her best buddy to a traditional theater.

“One time we—me and (my best buddy) Kirsten—went to see ‘Frozen.’ We got a little bit into the movie, when horse noises began to play, which made (Kirsten) upset. She started yelling because she was upset from all of the lights and sounds, and we had to leave 15 minutes later,” Anderson said.

Anderson said the new sensory friendly films will help alleviate these problems.

“Kids are allowed to talk during (a sensory friendly film showing), which would totally help a girl like Kirsten who likes to give commentary on the characters and the actors in a movie,” Anderson said.screen-shot-2016-11-11-at-12-25-30-pm

Green and Anderson both said sensory friendly films can help raise awareness for kids with autism.

“There’s the fact that (sensory friendly films) are helping (to) raise awareness for kids with autism and shows the public the kinds of things these kids have to deal with on a daily basis. (It) would help also explain why having sensory friendly films locally are important to raising awareness of diseases such as autism,” Anderson said.

Similarly, Throgmorton said, “I think that (sensory friendly films) are a great way to accommodate kids with disabilities. These accommodations help these kids to become a part of the community. I also think that other programs similar to sensory friendly films should be put in place for our friends with special needs.”