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.
The UK Cinema Association – working with partners at the autism charity Dimension and BFI Film Audience Network – has launched training resources for cinemas wishing to offer autism friendly screenings and establish a cinema environment more sympathetic to people with autism.
The resources, launched at the start of World Autism Awareness Month (April 2019), were developed by people with autism and industry experts. In becoming ‘autism friendly’, cinema staff are trained on how to make small adjustments to the environment that create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for people with autism.
Autism friendly screenings are intended to open up cinemas and cinema-going to people with autism, and may help people with autism transition into attending traditional screenings.
Responding to recent research from Dimensions suggesting that some elements of a traditional cinema screening – such as too much noise, having to sit through adverts and trailers, and worrying about being judged by others – can discourage visits from people with autism, the training resources advise on how to make small adjustments, such as altering the volume and lighting levels.
Since autism friendly screenings were first launched by ODEON Cinemas eight years ago, this initiative has been taken up by all other large UK cinema companies as well as a number of smaller operators. As a result, in that time there have been over 400,000 visits to over 350 autism friendly cinema sites.
The training resources released today include a comprehensive guide for cinemas on how to make their cinemas autism friendly as well as an illustrative training video, expanding on some of the points made and illustrating the transformative impact that these screenings can have on people with autism.