UK cinema operators have come together to host the first ever national week of autism friendly screenings in support of World Autism Awareness Day.
Six chains – ODEON, Cineworld, Vue, Showcase, Empire and Picturehouse – will show films from April 2-8 in environments that have been specially adapted for people with autism.
On Wednesday, April 2, the week of autism friendly screenings will be launched at ODEON Studios, Leicester Square with a preview screening of animated sequel Rio 2.
Autism friendly screenings of Rio 2, as well as Disney’s Muppets Most Wanted, will take place around the country from April 2-8. Reduced sound levels, increased lighting and advert-free content allow this audience group, their families and carers to be comfortable and feel fully included in the unique experience of a trip to the cinema.
In Rio 2, Blu, Jewel and their three kids venture from the city into the wilds of the Amazon for a family reunion. Out of his element in a land he doesn't know, Blu must face his most fearsome adversary – his father-in-law – while evading Nigel the cockatoo's fiendish plans for revenge.
In comedy caper Muppets Most Wanted, the Muppets get wrapped up in a European jewel-heist headed by a Kermit the Frog look-alike and his dastardly sidekick. Ricky Gervais and Tina Fey are among the humans who star alongside Kermit, Miss Piggy and the other Muppets.
Autism Friendly Screenings have proved popular since they were launched in 2011 by service provider Dimensions and ODEON. Claire Lockwood, who along with her husband and daughter Jodie has been going to autism friendly screenings for the last two years, said:
“The screenings are wonderful. When I first went I couldn’t believe how relaxed the atmosphere was. Jodie jumps up and down in her seat and laughs when she’s excited so it’s great she can do that and we don’t have to discourage her.
“She really loves it and it’s good to find something she enjoys. Because she’s had good experiences she knows what to expect when we say ‘cinema’.”
Lisa Hopkins, executive director of practice development at Dimensions, said the screenings are an element of the organisation’s focus to provide more inclusive environments for people with autism.
“We are proud of the way that autism friendly screenings have been received and continue to grow. This has allowed thousands of people who would have previously been excluded from the cinema environment to enjoy watching films. This has only been made possible through the continued support of our cinema partners.
“Offering more screenings during April is really exciting and encouraging. There is a clear need for this service and I hope that everybody enjoys this extra opportunity to see even more autism friendly screenings.
“People who can sometimes be excluded from the traditional cinema experience, because they may find the sensory experience too difficult to manage, are now able 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.”
The 7th annual World Autism Awareness Day is on April 2. Every year, autism organisations around the world celebrate the day with fundraising and awareness-raising events. For more information go to: www.autismspeaks.org/what-autism/world-autism-awareness-day