Many parents of children with autism decide to wait until movies hit store shelves before they let their child see them. Going out to the movies simply isn’t feasible. Their child might have a tantrum, or get too excited and disrupt the movie for others. It can be tragic to watch a child get excited for a summer blockbuster movie, and not be able to treat them to it.
Marianne Ross is the mother of Meaghan Ross, who has autism. Meaghan is a big fan of Zac Efron and musicals, so she was naturally very excited when Hairspray came out in theaters a few years ago. Ross knew she was taking a gamble by bringing her child to the theater, but didn’t want to deny her of all the fun she would have. Ross decided to take Meaghan to a weekday matinee, a few weeks after the movie had opened, in hopes that the theater would be largely empty. Nonetheless, after Efron made his appearance on the screen, Meaghan became overly excited. The other movie-goers notified the people in charge, and the Ross’s were forced to leave.
Ross was devastated that Meaghan would not be able to watch the full movie. She soon contacted the AMC Theater near their home, and explained their situation. The manager of the AMC Theater decided to set up a screening of “Bee Movie”, advertised for children with autism and other special needs that might prevent them from attending the movies. All 300 tickets available for the screening sold.
Since then, the monthly Saturday morning screening has spread to over 113 AMC Theaters. In order to make the screenings as easygoing as possible for the families, AMC only dims the lighting, and they keep the volume at a level that isn’t overbearing. Parents can bring whatever snacks their child likes, and it known amongst all attendees that it is OK for a child to act out or make noise.
Jessica Morrison, mother of a child with autism, said: “Integrating a child into normal activities is so important. It’s something I want us to be able to enjoy as a family. His peers will say, ‘What did you do this weekend?’ I want him to be able to do things, to have that to talk about.“