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Sensory Friendly Movies

It's been nearly 3 weeks since I've written about a parenting topic...so today's subject is timely.

Each month, AMC Theatres presents Sensory Friendly Films in a number of communities around the nation. It's in partnership with The Autism Society and is specifically aimed at providing families with a more friendly movie environment for little ones who may struggle in a traditionally dark, loud auditorium. Our particular visit this past Saturday was to see Muppets Most Wanted at the Yorktown 17 in the Chicago area. But you can check the listing on the website to find the upcoming monthly shows in your area.

First...a word about the film itself. If you haven't had a chance to see the new Muppet movie, you really should. I almost enjoyed it more than the previous (though entertaining) one. This one feels more like classic muppets--odd, upbeat, it moves quickly, lots of adult humor while never getting too offensive. A funny, wholesome, "romp." Which is rare these days. It's cheesy. But the Muppets are supposed to be. I think the Mama and I enjoyed it as much as the kids. Maybe more!

For a brief moment Saturday morning, the link disappeared from the theater's website...which had me needlessly worried enough to buy advanced tickets before we left home. Points here for AMC's online process: a very handy button sends you a text message with the confirmation number you need to give to the box office for printing your tickets when you arrive.

Even at 10am, there were enough families that we weren't by ourselves so it felt "real." We got popcorn and lemonade, the kids got to explore the lobby with posters and displays for upcoming movies. Then we found our way into the auditorium. A word of warning here, while AMC was very prompt about checking on sound levels for the film, the ads before the show were at normal levels. Intimidating for my son who has only mild sensory issues...if your son or daughter is really sound sensitive you may want to wait until show time to arrive. There were plenty of seats--at least this time. And nobody is really going to judge your late arrival.

The Mama had brought knitting thinking she may get a chance during the movie, but it got a little darker than we expected. Not so dark that walking was difficult or you couldn't see where your kids went. But I also wouldn't say "lights up" as advertised. Then, when the film started, there was an animated short but no previews--which was nice. And within the first 5 minutes of the feature presentation an employee came into the auditorium to inquire about the sound level. It was maybe a tiny, tiny bit too loud but that ended up being wise given the noise of kids playing later. It wasn't ear-splitting.

Our kids ate their popcorn and sat in their seats for the first 30-45 minutes or so. But by then, other children had gotten antsy and were up. Nobody was too loud. One little boy came and stole a bite of our popcorn. Maybe a couple of brief outbursts, but for the most part it was kids around preschool age who simply wanted to get down and play on the stairs or in the space at the front of the theater. Most of the moms and dads followed their kids or camped out on the floor for dancing, etc.. My son was actually more concerned about his sister...she was the one who was wandering around and being loud from our crew.

In the end, we left before the big finale, but neither of them was going to sit still again. They had a good first movie experience that was positive, absolutely no fear, and one that left them asking to come back another time.  Parent-wise, we agreed that neither of them is ready for the "real" movies maybe. It's a lot to ask of a little one. But our impression of Sensory Friendly Films was great.

I'd encourage any of my friends with little ones to take their kids to the movies under these conditions if they have doubts. It was a great time--not just for those needing some special attention. It's fairly rare to find something we all enjoy doing as a family as an outing. But this was a perfect fit.

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