SpongeBob movieTo celebrate World Autism Awareness Day on April 2, there will be more than 900 autism friendly film screenings around the country, giving people with autism the chance to go to the cinema in conditions more suited to their needs.

Together the Cinema Exhibitors Association and learning disability services provider Dimensions have helped secure these screenings, including at the four chains involved in the Autism Friendly Film Screenings initiative – ODEON, Vue, Cineworld and Showcase – and independent cinemas.

Autism Friendly Screenings are mainstream films shown in a sensory friendly environment. Lights are on low, sound is turned down, trailers are omitted and people can bring their own food, make noise and move around the cinema as they feel comfortable.

The films to be shown include:

The SpongeBob Movie: A Sponge out of Water at selected Cineworld, ODEON and Vue cinemas

Home at selected Cineworld and Showcase cinemas

Cinderella at selected ODEON cinemas

National Theatre Live: Treasure Island (12A) and X+Y (12A) and Paddington at selected Vue cinemas.

Lisa Hopkins, executive director of practice development at Dimensions, said: “We are really pleased to be working with the Cinema Exhibitors Association to put on extra Autism Friendly Screenings to celebrate World Autism Awareness Day. Our current partners, ODEON, Cineworld, Vue and Showcase, already have regular monthly screenings and are helping make the cinema accessible for even more people with autism so it’s great to see extra screenings taking place across the country.

“The monthly Autism Friendly Screenings have been so well received and continue to gain support, showing the need for more autism friendly environments and awareness. People who have sensory sensitivity can sometimes be excluded from the traditional cinema experience because they may find the sensory and social experience too difficult to manage. 

“Autism Friendly Screenings gives them the opportunity to watch a wider variety of films, more frequently, in an environment conducive with their needs. These opportunities are important stepping stones towards full inclusion in mainstream cinemas and it’s great to see cinemas celebrating World Autism Awareness Day and supporting that process.”

Range of movies

In The SpongeBob Movie: A Sponge out of Water, cartoon favourite SpongeBob Squarepants makes the leap into CGI and live action. In the film, SpongeBob, along with friends Patrick, Squidward, Mr Krabs and Sandy – as well as old adversary Plankton – are forced to come ashore when a pirate named Burger Beard steals the top-secret recipe for Krabby Patties. Can the friends get the recipe back before Burger Beard gets to enact his plans?

Home tells the story of alien Oh, who comes to Earth when on the run from his own planet. On Earth, Oh forms a friendship with a girl named Tip, who is on a quest of her own. Through an ensuing series of adventures, Oh learns that being different and making mistakes is part of being human. And while Oh changes Tip’s planet and she changes his world, they discover the true meaning of the word home.

Paddington is the big-screen adaptation of the much-loved children’s book by Michael Bond. In the film, the young bear from Peru arrives alone in London at Paddington Station, and is taken in by the Brown family. While Paddington starts to enjoy his new life – of course, creating havoc along the way – this is threatened when a museum taxidermist spots him and thinks he would make a great addition to the museum.

Cinderella is Disney’s live-action retelling of the classic story. After Ella’s father dies suddenly, she is left at the mercy of her cruel stepmother and stepsisters, who reduce her to a maid. But Ella’s life takes a turn when she meets her fairy godmother, who enables her to go to the ball and meet the Prince – although she has to leave before midnight when everything turns back to its original state.

In X+Y, young maths prodigy Nathan struggles to comprehend the world around him. But after being taken under the wing of unconventional teacher Mr. Humphreys, and winning a place on the UK team at the International Mathematics Olympiad, Nathan goes from suburban England to Taipei and back again, Nathan learns more about relationships and the irrational nature of love.

Finally, National Theatre Live: Treasure Island sees a new stage adaptation of Robert Louis Stephenson’s classic pirate tale broadcast live on the big screen. Here, Jim, the inn-keeper’s granddaughter, opens the door to an old sailor, who has with him a huge sea-chest, full of secrets. Jim invites him in – and her dangerous voyage begins.

Getting tickets

To view a full list of participating cinemas visit www.dimensions-uk.org/autismfriendly.

ODEON tickets can be booked on the Wednesday before the screening through the ODEON accessibility helpline number 0800 138 3315. Or book online.

Vue tickets can be booked online or for information call 08712 240 240.

Cineworld tickets can be booked online or for information call 0871 200 2000.