NORMAN — The Warren Theatre in Moore offers an exceptional movie-going experience for movie lovers of all ages, but this Saturday, it will reach out to a new group of movie lovers: special needs children.
At 11 a.m. (doors open at 10:15 a.m.), the theater will show “Rise of the Guardians” in a theater adjusted to make children with autism or other sensory disabilities more comfortable: brighter lighting, softer sound and no restrictions on movement or noise.
“A traditional motion picture theater represents a nearly impossible environment for these children to watch a movie,” Warren Theater’s Dan Gray said. “A dark theater with thunderous audio and policies requiring moviegoers to stay in their seats and be quiet make it very difficult. The ‘sensory friendly’ presentation seeks to remove these obstacles, finally allowing these children an opportunity to go out and watch a movie.”
In addition to sound and light adjustments, the auditorium for the screening will be one with sloped aisles rather than stadium seating with stairs, to allow safe movement and hopefully singing and dancing.
Warren Theatres President and CEO Bill Warren was first introduced to the idea by public school personnel in Wichita, Kan., who wanted to create a sensory friendly movie-going opportunity for students in that area.
“I was somewhat familiar with autism but am embarrassed to say I really didn’t know much about it,” Warren said. “I was so surprised by the number of kids who have autism and the difficulty they have viewing a movie.”
Psychology Today defines autism as a complex disorder that affects the brain’s normal development of communication skills. Common features of autism include impaired social interactions, impaired verbal and nonverbal communication, problems processing information from the senses and restricted or repetitive forms of behavior. Those with autism tend to appear indifferent or remote and often have unusual responses to sensory experiences.