Sensory Friendly?

Yesterday, we decided to take in a movie.

Now… I don’t get to see first run movies very often.  The largest problem really is that we don’t have a regular babysitter, but we also don’t go to see many movies as a family due to the obvious issues – movies are generally very bright in a very dark space, they’re loud, and there’s not much tolerance for a child who can’t sit still.

Obvously, AMC has a solution, with their sensory friendly films series.  For those who haven’t yet gone over to their link, they offer family-friendly films several times a year, at 10 AM local time on Saturday mornings, with a set of parameters that should enable a successful outing (i.e., we actually get to see the film) for most families with Autism.

We’ve never had the chance before to go see one, but with Monsters University hitting the theaters, we thought we’d take the opportunity to scope it out.  After all, there are three theaters in our area that participate, and one’s actually close to us.  (Plus, going there meant that we’d be able to go grab lunch and then hit the pool – a perfect summer weekend.)  We picked MU because the Monster plays a Monsters, Inc. game on the iPad, so he’s at least familiar with the two main characters in some fashion.

Yeah…

So we drove over to the AMC Owings Mills 17 – a theater that we know well from having gone there frequently prior to children being in the picture.  The wife went up to the box office to buy the tickets, while I hung back with the kids.  I could hear her up at the window explicitly asking for tickets for the “sensory-friendly showing” and being asked for confirmation if she’s talking about the 10:45 showing.  Um… no.  10 AM, like the website said.  And then we went in, with few other problems…

Well, at least until the film started.  Straight away, the lights went down, which we were not expecting.  The sound came up at full normal volume.  The parents in front of us had a quick conversation and then one went out immediately to go find the manager and complain, only to return to tell his wife that the staff at the theater seemed to have no idea what he was talking about vis-a-vis a “sensory friendly film”.  Basically – the local theater, listed on AMC’s site as hosting “sensory friendly films”, was doing no such thing because the staff in the theater that morning had never heard of it.

Now… fortunately, it seemed like the majority of folks in the theater were there for the same purpose as us, and there were few outbursts during the film, none of which were really paid much attention to.  Even the Monster was relatively good through 95% of the film – it was the end where his attention finally broke down fully.  While I don’t know if a properly sensory-friendly film would have helped more with that, it wasn’t a bad outing for him, per se.

That said, I might be more inclined to go over to White Marsh next time to see if that’s a better experience.  I have a feeling that this was an aberration, given how prominently AMC does things for families with Autism (including the upcoming summer films series with proceeds going to the Autism Society and Autism Speaks), but I want to check other theaters in the area to be certain before I pass judgement.

To AMC’s credit, they did respond immediately to ask for contact information when I bugged them later through Twitter, not that I’ve yet heard from them.  I’ll put more information here when I have further contact with them.

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