*** COVID GUIDANCE UPDATE ***
Research by Dimensions found that 90% of guests to autism friendly cinema screenings would feel safe going back to the cinema, with safety measures in place. Previous research has found that the autism friendly screenings are sometimes the only [quoted] “normal” activity people and families with autism can do together without fear of judgement. Autism friendly screenings are a safe space for people and families with autism, there isn’t fear of judgment and it’s an experience they can share with and talk about with friends and loved ones.
Going to autism friendly screenings was a routine for some guests, and routine can be very important for people with autism. Lockdown changed day-to-day life significantly so being able to go back to the cinema will offer some normalcy and respite.
Independent cinemas that are able to provide screenings are encouraged to support these audiences.
Back in 2011, Dimensions and the UK Cinema Association joined forces to help introduce regular autism-friendly screenings to the UK, developing the work begun by Picturehouse in collaboration with National Autistic Society (NAS) in 2009.
ODEON was one of the first UK cinema companies to roll out the delivery of autism-friendly screenings, in 40 sites across the country. Over 3,000 guests attended those screenings, since which time they have grown tremendously in terms of availability and popularity.
2016 marked the fifth anniversary of national autism-friendly screenings in the UK. In those first five years, there were 280,000 visits to 200 screenings across 300 sites operated by ODEON, Cineworld, Vue and Showcase Cinemas, with many more independent cinemas picking up the mantle and running regular programmes of their own.
With five national cinema chains, and a number of independent exhibitors, now partnering with Dimensions and committed to high quality, regular screenings, cinema is becoming increasingly accessible for guests with sensory sensitivity. Through this training, we aim to support more cinemas in the delivery of autism- friendly screenings.
The UK Cinema Association, supported by Dimensions and the BFI Film Audience Network, have produced this guide on how best to deliver and promote autism- friendly screenings at your cinemas. We hope you find it useful and it inspires you to consider putting on your own autism-friendly screenings.
Whilst this guide predominantly focuses on autism – and screenings are therefore referred to as autism-friendly screenings (AFS) – we know many cinemas use the terms ‘relaxed’ or ‘sensory friendly’. Whatever the name used, such screenings can benefit anyone who finds standard screenings overwhelming.
People with a broad range of cognitive conditions can look at what these screenings do differently to see if they might be of benefit to them.
Access the guide, along with further resources in the downloads section.