For many students with disabilities, going to the movie theater can be a scary experience. The blaring sounds and contrast of bright lights in a pitch-black room can be overstimulating for children with sensory-related disabilities like autism. So many theaters now offer occasional, "sensory-friendly" film screenings to make movie-going easier for all kids.
Durham Public Schools has been hosting sensory-friendly movies at the Northgate Stadium 10 theater on the third Saturday of every month for years, even in the summer. The theater turns down the sound, and turns up the lights a little, and relaxes the usual no-talking-during-the-movie policies. Instead, the screenings allow kids to get their energy out.
"Kids can get up and bounce around if they need to bounce around, they can pace if they need to pace, they can push the seat in front of them if they need to push the seat in front of them," said Krista Saunders, who works in the Exceptional Children's Department for Durham Public Schools.
"Northgate has been beyond gracious," Saunders said, explaining that the theater opens up on Saturday mornings just for the event and offers the whole experience with popcorn for only $5. "They're not making money off of this, they're doing it out of the goodness of their hearts in the support of making sure all children have access to movies."
Saunders says it's a non-judgmental environment that helps kids with sensory disabilities get to enjoy a summer blockbuster.