AMC Expands Sensory-Friendly Movie Showings

If you have a child with sensory processing issues, you know that going to the movies can be tough. Special effects may scare kids with sensory issues, and crowds can be overwhelming.

But now you may have more options. This past month, AMC Theatres expanded its movie programs for kids with sensory processing issues. Select theaters in the chain will now be offering four sensory-friendly showings per month. Look for them on the second and fourth Tuesdays and Saturdays of each month at 7pm and 10am respectively.

Kids with sensory processing issues can be hypersensitive to many things people encounter at the movies. This can include loud noises or sudden changes in light, large groups of people and unfamiliar textures or smells. Sensations like these can make some kids feel overwhelmed or fearful. In some cases the sensations could trigger a meltdown.

During sensory-friendly showings, the house lights stay on and the sound levels are lower than usual. Kids can get up out of their seats, walk around and interact with their families if they need to. And it’s understood that moviegoers can go in and out of the theater at will.

The films are fun and family-friendly. Among those coming up are: Goosebumps, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2 and Star Wars: The Force Awakens.

The response to the program has been positive, according to AMC. Cindy Marks-Alpert of Long Island, New York, has worked with kids with special needs for more than 15 years and takes kids with sensory processing issues to these showings. She says the children love them.

“They are great,” she explains. “The volume is decreased and the lights stay on the whole time. You can bring in any snacks you want and either go as a family or meet and join together to talk to families in the lobby.”

All kids are welcome at these showings. The tickets cost exactly the same as they do for regular showings.

The program began back in 2008, when AMC partnered with Autism Society. (Kids with autism often have sensory processing issues, but not all kids with sensory processing issues have autism.) A parent in Maryland asked an AMC Theatre manager to set up a special sensory-friendly screening for her child. More than 300 parents and children came—and their response was positive. The program was soon expanded across the country.

“Hearing from families who enjoy the program is one of the most rewarding parts of the job,” says Ryan Noonan, PR director of AMC Theatres. “We hear from guests with a child who gets to see his or her first movie in a theater because of the program. Knowing that this program lets parents take their children to a movie is just heartwarming.”

At this point, half of the AMC circuit participates in the program. If the demand continues, more openings may be seen in the future.

Get more tips on how to help kids with sensory processing issues deal with common triggers.

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About the author

Melissa A. Kay is a writer, editor, and content strategist in the areas of family, health, employment, beauty, lifestyle, and more.