Sensory Friendly Movies

You may have seen sensory friendly movies advertised at your local cinema.

What does the phrase sensory friendly films mean?

What is an autism friendly screening?

What is a relaxed screening?

What does ATF mean in cinema?

What is a sensory sensitive movie or sensory screening?

Are they all the same thing?  In this blog post, I will answer these questions for you and more.  I will also review:

A sensory-friendly movie is one where how you see and hear it is changed.  Therefore, the movie itself is not changed, but the experience in the movie theatre is changed. It is important to know that not every sensory-friendly movie theatre will offer the same experience. Most often, a sensory-friendly movie is one where the house lights are turned up and the movie soundtrack volume is turned down.

You should expect children and families to be in the audience. Sensory-friendly movies are more often for children. You should also expect that because there are more children in the audience that they may make more noise during the movie. In some instances, for a sensory-friendly screening, the movie theatre will allow moviegoers to bring their own food.  In addition, you can expect moviegoers to move around more in their seats or in the theatre during a sensory-friendly film.

Kids with parents at a Sensory friendly movie

Who Wants to See Sensory Friendly Movies?

Below is a list of all the types of disorders, disabilities or differences that can contribute to people of all ages who might want to see a sensory-friendly movie.

Having a disorder, disability on this list does not mean you will automatically prefer sensory-friendly movies. It just means you are more likely too.  People with one of these disorders, disabilities or differences are more likely to be hypersensitive, or experience sensory overload.   That means the person sees and hears things more intensely.  In addition, the loud sounds of a movie soundtrack or dark theatres with bright screen is bothersome to them.  However, they still want to enjoy a movie just like everyone else.

• Alzheimer’s Disease (AD)
• Anxiety
• Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)
• Attention Deficit Hyperactive Disorder (ADHD)
• Autism, Asperger’s, Autism Spectrum Disorder, High functioning autism
• Concussion, Post-concussion Syndrome (PCS)
• Dementia
• Echolalia
• Fibromyalgia
• Hearing loss, hard of hearing
• Highly sensitive person (HSP)
• Intellectual disability (ID)
• Learning disability (LD)
• Lewy-Body Dementia
• Low vision, vision loss
• Meniere’s disease
• Mental disorders, mental illness
• Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS)
• Non-verbal learning disability (NVLD)
• Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
• Sensory disorder
• Sensory integration disorder (SID)
• Sensory processing disorder (SPD)
• Synesthesia
• Tourette’s syndrome
• Trauma, early childhood trauma
• Vestibular disorder

What Makes Movies More Accessible?

There are other adaptations or accommodations that make movie more accessible to people with sensory impairments or differences.  You might notice certain spots reserved for people who use wheelchairs.  There might be seats saved next to that spot for the people accompanying them called companion seats.  You might also see a guide dog or a service animal accompanying a moviegoer in a movie theatre.  Usually the guide dog or service animal needs some sort of certification.

What is audio DESC?  DESC also called audio description or video description or described video.  Audio description at the movies helps people who have vision loss, low vision or who are blind.  The moviegoer has a special headset to wear during the movie to hear the soundtrack and a narrator.  The narrator describes what is happening on the screen during pauses in dialogue and sometimes even during dialogue if needed.  You might have experienced audio description if you went to a museum or an art exhibit and wore a headset that offered an audio tour, like a tour guide, telling you information about the exhibit.  You also could have enjoyed an audio description at an arena during a sporting event.  So audio description is not just used at the movies.

Sometimes movies are screened at special showings where the closed caption is turned on for everyone to see at the bottom of the screen for people who have hearing loss, are hard of hearing or deaf.  Some movie theatres have special glasses available called assistive listening eyeglasses.  These special type of glasses show closed caption projections for the person wearing them.  Therefore, they can watch the movie and see closed caption projected in front of them at the same time.  Some movie theatres have a device that the moviegoer can hold in their hands or that is attached to their drink cup and read the closed caption on a small screen.

Finally, some people wear sound isolating or noise-cancelling headphones at the movies with the audio soundtrack going directly to their headphones.

Key Points to Remember About Sensory Friendly Movies

• Not every sensory-friendly movie theatre will offer the same experience.
• The movie is the same.
• A sensory-friendly movie changes how you see and hear the movie.
• Generally, a sensory-friendly movie follows lights-up and sound down principles.
• The movie theatre will have the house lights turned on or at least up.
• Many children and families will be in audience.
• More sensory-friendly movies are for children.
• The audience might be noisier too.
• The volume of sound from the movie will not be as loud.
• Sometimes moviegoers are allowed to bring their own food.
• Moviegoers may move around more in their seats or in the theatre.
• Movie theatres may offer other accommodations like wheelchair seating, a closed caption device or closed caption screening, audio description or noise-cancelling headphones.

Movie Theatres That Offer Sensory Friendly Movies

Here are all the movie theatres that we have found to offer some sensory-friendly movies.  It is important to note that they do not offer sensory-friendly movies all of the time and for every movie they screen.  It is also important to know that a sensory-friendly movie at one cinema may not be the same as at another one.  Family movies or movies for children are more likely offered as sensory-friendly.
1. AMC
2. Cinemark
3. Cineplex
4. Cineworld
5. Empire Cinemas
6. Landmark
7. Odeon
8. Picturehouse
9. Regal
10. Showcase
11. Vue

Have you discovered a movie theatre that offers sensory-friendly movies that is not on our list?  Please add what you find is sensory-friendly in your community to share that helpful information with other sensory-friendly seekers just like you.

What Else Are Sensory Friendly Movies Called?

It can be confusing because there are many phrases used to describe a sensory-friendly movie.  We have done the sensory-friendly detective work for you and gathered them together in a list.

• ATF means Autism Friendly
• Assisted cinema
• Assisted films
• Assisted movie theaters
• Assisted movies
• Assisted screening
• Autism-friendly cinema
• Autism-friendly films
• Autism-friendly movie theatres
• Autism-friendly movies
• Autism-friendly screening (AFS)
• Family-friendly cinema
• Family-friendly films
• Family-friendly movie theatres
• Family-friendly movies
• Family-friendly screening
• Kid friendly cinema
• Kid friendly films
• Kid friendly movie theaters
• Kid friendly movies
• Kid friendly screening
• Relaxed cinema
• Relaxed films
• Relaxed movie theatres
• Relaxed movies
• Relaxed screening
• Sensory cinema
• Sensory films
• Sensory movie theatres
• Sensory movies
• Sensory screening
• Sensory-friendly cinema
• Sensory-friendly films
• Sensory-friendly movie theatres
• Sensory-friendly movies
• Sensory-friendly screening
• Sensory-Friendly Special Needs cinema
• Sensory-Friendly Special Needs films
• Sensory-Friendly Special Needs movie theatres
• Sensory-Friendly Special Needs movies
• Sensory-Friendly Special Needs screening
• Sensory-relaxed cinema
• Sensory-relaxed films
• Sensory-relaxed movie theatres
• Sensory-relaxed movies
• Sensory-relaxed screening
• Sensory-sensitive cinema
• Sensory-sensitive films
• Sensory-sensitive movie theatres
• Sensory-sensitive movies
• Sensory-sensitive screening
• Special Needs cinema
• Special Needs films
• Special Needs movie theatres
• Special Needs movies
• Special Needs screening

Is this long list overwhelming?  There is a solution for you.  You can find sensory-friendly events, places, products and services in your daily life in the FREE Sensory-Friendly Finder.