What are Sensory Friendly Movies?

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Have you seen sensory-friendly movies advertised?

Maybe you wonder what:

  • do sensory-friendly films mean?
  • is an autism-friendly screening?
  • is a relaxed screening?
  • do sensory screenings mean then?
  • is a sensory-sensitive movie?
  • if they are all the same thing?

What are sensory-friendly movies?

A sensory-friendly movie changes your sensory experience.  This happens through what you hear.  Moreover, it may happen through what you see.  Although the movie itself does not change.  That is to say, it’s your experience in the movie theatre that is changed.

Importantly, know that not every movie theatre will offer the same experience.  However, you can likely expect the house lights to be turned up.  Likewise, the soundtrack volume down.  Nonetheless, sensory-friendly movies, sensory-friendly films, autism-friendly movies, sensory-sensitive movies, and sensory screenings do all mean the same thing.

What else to expect.

More often than not, sensory-friendly movies are for children.  So naturally, there will be more children in the audience.  And families too.  Importantly, that can also mean increased noise and movement in the seats.  Also throughout the theatre.  In some instances, the movie theatre will allow people to bring their own food.  As a result, that can create additional noise of crinkling packaging.

Some theatres may loan out earmuffs.  Others may loan out weighted lap pads. These are examples of sensory tools that help patrons enjoy the movie.

Young children sitting in movie theatre holding popcorn.

Who wants to see sensory-friendly movies?

Many people take advantage of sensory-friendly movies.  And enjoy them.  This includes both children and adults.  Specifically, it may be that children or adults have an underlying disorder, disability, or difference.  Accordingly, they experience sensory sensitivity.  Or maybe they just enjoy the adjusted ambiance.

However, having a disability does not mean you prefer these types of movies.  Nonetheless, it means you might.  For example, people with anxiety, autism, hearing loss, concussion, or PTSD may have sensory sensitivity or experience sensory overload Furthermore, a loud movie soundtrack is bothersome.  Alternatively, dark theatres with a bright screen are distressing.

In contrast, some people may not be bothered at all.  Accordingly, many people enjoy a sensory-rich experience.

What makes movies more accessible?

To clarity, there are many small changes that make movies more accessible.   For instance, you may notice spots reserved for people who use wheelchairs.  Or, there could be special seats saved called companion seats. These are for the person(s) attending along with a person with a disability.  Finally, perhaps accommodations have been made for a guide dog or service animal.

Changes to audio

What is an audio DESC?

DESC stands for audio description.  It can also be called video description, or described video.  The audio description specifically helps people with vision loss, low vision, or who are blind.  In these cases, the patron wears a special headset.  With help from the headset, they are able to hear the soundtrack.  In addition, a narrator describes what happens onscreen.  Mostly this happens during pauses.  But it can happen over dialogue if needed.

Besides, you have likely experienced an audio description at some point!

Have you gone to a museum?  Maybe to an art exhibit?  Or a traveling exhibition? Perhaps you wore a headset there?  And it offered a personal audio tour.  This would be instead of an actual tour guide.  As a result, you listened to information about the exhibit.  Therefore, you experienced an audio description.

Another example of an audio description might be at a sporting event.  For instance, a sportscaster describes the play.  That is also an audio description.

In conclusion, an audio description is not just used in the movies!

Closed Captions

Sometimes movies are screened at special showings.  For example, a special showing may be held to include closed captions where they are shown to everyone.  In this case, they are typically at the bottom of the movie screen.  However, closed captioning is not just for people who have hearing loss.  Nor is it just for people who are hard of hearing, or deaf.  For instance, some people with learning disabilities like to read the dialogue.  It is similar to having subtitles.  Lastly, subtitles help someone whose first language is different.

Additionally, some movie theatres have assistive listening eyeglasses.  These special glasses show closed captions projected on the lens.  Thus, the person can both watch the movie and see the closed caption at the same time.

As well, movie theatres have also adopted handheld device technology.  It lets users read the closed caption on a small screen.

Finally, as we have learned, closed captions can be enjoyed by anyone.

Directed sound

In another example, people wear sound-isolating headphones.  Likewise, they might wear noise-canceling headphones too. Specifically, they have the audio soundtrack going directly to their headphones.

Couple with popcorn watching movie in cinema.

Key points to remember about sensory friendly movies

  • Not every sensory-friendly movie is the same experience.
  • However, the movie remains the same.
  • But changes occur in how you see and hear it.
  • For example, the theatre has house lights turned on or up.
  • In addition, many children and families are likely in the audience.
  • Know that more sensory-friendly movies are for children.
  • And, the audience may be noisier.
  • On the other hand, the volume is not as loud.
  • As well, people may be allowed to bring their own snacks.
  • Also, expect children to move around in their seats and the theatre.
  • Finally, movie theatres may offer additional help such as:
    • Wheelchair seating
    • Closed caption devices
    • Closed caption movie screening
    • Audio description
    • Noise-canceling headphones with direct sound
    • Earmuffs

Movie theatres that offer sensory friendly movies

As examples, here is a list of movie theatres we have found that offer sensory-friendly screenings.

First, they do not offer it for every movie they show.

Second, a sensory-friendly movie at one cinema, may not be the same at another.

Third, remember, children’s movies are more likely to be sensory-friendly.

Empire Cinemas

What else are sensory friendly movies called?

To sum up, there are many words that describe sensory-friendly movies!


• Assisted cinema
• Assisted films
• Assisted movie theaters
• Assisted movies
• Assisted screening

• ATF means Autism Friendly
• 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

Finally, it is important to know that sensory-friendly movies and relaxed performances are two different things.  While events that are sensory-friendly do have things in common, aspects of the experience are not identical.

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