Relaxed screenings are screenings where the environment has been adapted to be more welcoming and accessible to people with additional needs.

These could be people living with dementia, autism, or other neurodiverse people. These screenings are identifiable by some adjustments such as altered lighting, volume of sound, arrangement of the venue, and usually don’t have trailers, and customers are encouraged to get up and move around, or speak or make noise if they want to/feel the need to. Screenings are usually introduced so that everyone attending realises talking and movement is allowed.

There is a detailed dementia-friendly screenings guide available here for those looking to run specific dementia-friendly screenings.

Dimensions, UKCA and FAN are collaborating on a comprehensive autism-friendly screenings guide currently, which will be shared in 2019.

In preparation

  1. Talk to your customers about what you can do to make your cinema, social spaces and box office more accessible for people with specific needs.
  2. Talk to knowledgeable organisations such as Alzheimer’s Society, Dimensions, Scope, Mencap, or local organisations to get their input on your cinema.
  3. Train up your staff with briefings and/or formal training.
  4. Market your event well in advance and across multiple channels. Consider leafleting public places like doctors surgeries, shopping locations and community centres.
  5. You may want to create a social story for your film, showing the audience images of the venue, parking, box office, cafe and screen, and even detailing some plot points and information about characters in the film, so they know what to expect on arrival.
  6. Only sell 75% of the screen capacity so there is plenty of room around and the audience doesn’t feel crowded or overwhelmed.

In the venue

  1. Improve signage by using accessible black and yellow recommended signs (these can be temporary printouts) with images that are recognisable and simple.
  2. Allow room for mobility aids and more seating in areas where people may need to queue – box office/cafe.
  3. Create a chillout space where people can go and relax if they find the experience overwhelming.
  4. Double your volunteers supporting the event, so there are plenty of hands to help people move around and get comfortable.
  5. Consider rearranging the screen so people can sit more comfortably – you may want to use sofas and beanbags over your formal seating, if your cinema is capable of this.
  6. Consider turning the lights up and the volume down to adapt for people with sensory sensitivities.
  7. Open the screen half an hour early so people can arrive and get settled and you can start on time. If you need to start the film late, explain to the audience that this is happening. This should ideally only be in the event that you are assisting a customer into the cinema.
  8. Allow people to sit where they like. Booked seats can be troublesome.
  9. Introduce the screening to explain what adjustments have been made and to let everyone know talking and movement is allowed.