People at the cinema

Going to the cinema is an enjoyable, exciting experience for many of us, but can be overwhelming for autistic people and those with sensory differences. Things like bright lights, loud noises and crowded spaces may put an autistic person off visiting the cinema, even if they love watching films.

Here are some tips for cinemas who would like to host Autism Friendly Screenings, whilst still keeping the magic of the big screen alive. You might also find it useful to read our information on what is autism?

What cinemas can do

  • liaise with other local cinemas so AFS are advertised on different days
  • schedule screenings at the same time each month so people get to know when they are showing
    - for adult screenings some people will only have a support worker during the day so you may get a larger audience in the early afternoon rather than the evening.
  • arrange autism awareness sessions for staff.
  • provide a chill out area within easy reach of the screen (not in a public thoroughfare area) in case there is a need to get a break from the film. Provide chairs for somewhere to sit.
  • identify a quiet area for anybody to use when the film is on an autistic person may be there on their own and need to use this.
  • sound levels must be reduced and lights left on at a very low level so the screen is not in complete darkness.
  • have clear signage to show which screen has the AFS screening if there is more than one screen.
  • when starting up, if you are trying to attract a different age range hold an open morning and invite people to the cinema so they can hear what the reduced sound level is and increased screen lighting level will be like.

What staff can do

  • start the film at the advertised time and make sure trailers are not shown in these screenings.
  • know where the chill out area is and what this area is for during the AFS film.
  • know when an AFS film is screening and be aware of the adjustments needed.
  • attend an autism awareness session.
  • if the scheduled operator is changed make sure the new person is aware of the adjustments which are needed.

Practical suggestions

Booking and arrival

Some families will happily book ahead of time but others may just arrive on the day and need help to get their child into the cinema. Have a member of staff available to provide help if needed. Some families may arrive with a very anxious person and need time to calm down, so allow the parent or carer to address this before they enter the film screening area.

Food and snacks

Some children are on special diets so their parents may bring food for their child with them as the food on sale would not be suitable.

Use of mobile phones and portable electronic devices

Please allow electronic devices in the cinema as some autistic people may use these to play games etc which helps them concentrate on the film, or calms them down.

If the use of a device is distracting for other customers, please contact staff so that seats can be changed.

Letting people know about AFS

Your Local Authority, Local Adult Service Providers and Local Authority Adult Social Care might like to share details.

Training

Our Autism Access Specialist, Chris Pike, can offer training and consultancy on how to make your cinema autism friendly and what adjustments are needed for showings. You can contact him at chris.pike@nas.org.uk.