Sensory-Friendly Cinema for Children with Autism

Going to the movies doesn't have to be stressful for children on the spectrum – thanks to these special movie screenings at AMC Theatres and Emagine.

For a child with autism, going to the movies – a typically fun childhood experience – can be overwhelming. With intense surround sound, pitch-black darkness and “silence is golden” rules, it’s often too much to handle.

But two theater chains in southeast Michigan make the silver screen accessible to kids, teens and adults on the spectrum: AMC Theatres and Emagine Entertainment.

“We want to make sure that everyone feels welcome at a movie theater,” explains Ryan Noonan with AMC corporate communications. Its Sensory-Friendly Films series, hosted in partnership with Autism Society of America, all began in Baltimore back in 2008, at the request of a mom of a child with autism in that city.

Here in metro Detroit, you’ll find monthly offerings at three of the chain’s locales.

Similarly, hometown-based Emagine kicked off its Autism Friendly Movies in late 2015 after Centria Healthcare Autism Services saw a need for it.

“We found, upon talking to our families, that one thing that they wished they could do is go out with the whole family,” says Matt Blouin, Centria’s marketing director. “They could take their son or daughter with autism out, and they could take their son or daughter without autism out separately, but not at the same time.”

That’s not the case anymore. “This is about inclusion and showing people that they have a spot in the community.”

AMC Sensory Friendly Films

Mornings on second and fourth Saturdays (kids); evenings on second and fourth Tuesdays (older kids/adults); check ahead for times

  • April 8: Boss Baby (PG)
  • April 11: Gifted (PG-13)
  • April 22: Smurfs: The Lost Village (PG)
  • April 25: The Fate of the Furious (PG-13)
  • May 9 and 13: Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (not rated at press time; first was PG-13)

Theaters: Clinton Township, Livonia, Sterling Heights

Emagine’s Autism Friendly Movies

10:30 a.m. first and third Saturdays

April 1: Boss Baby
April 15: Smurfs: The Lost Village

Theaters: Novi, Rochester Hills, Woodhaven

What to expect at sensory-adjusted screenings:

  • Lights are turned up for kids who may be afraid of the dark.
  • Sound is turned down for kids that have issues with loud noises.
  • Rules about talking, dancing and walking around are eliminated. Kids can get up, ask questions and sing along to their favorite scenes.
  • Outside food is welcome to accommodate dietary needs.


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