Celebration! Cinema Offers Low-Sensory Showtimes for Special-Needs Guests

For people who struggle with Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD), which often accompanies other disorders such as autism, going to the theater to watch a movie can be a huge challenge. All the sensory input feeling like like a train barreling down on you can be too much.

I can imagine only a small inkling of what it is like for a child with with special needs as I have mild SPD. Being a mom has forced me to overcome a lot of this because my kids have all chosen extracurricular activities that force me to sit still in a theater every few weeks. The one thing that I still dread, though, is sitting in a movie theater where it all seems just a bit more jarring and overwhelming sensory-wise.

Lots of people can’t simply force themselves to overcome it, though, and doing things we normally take for granted are impossible for them. That’s where the Family Hope Foundation comes in.

Family Hope Foundation Partners with Celebration! Cinema to Give Help and Support

Partnering with the Family Hope Foundation based in Jenison, Celebration! Cinema has created an atmosphere that is welcoming and fun for people with disabilities. What started out as a one-time event in 2011, has become part of the regular schedule for many Celebration! Cinema movie theaters.

Jane Eppard, executive director of the Family Hope Foundation, said her organization, that provides scholarships and other support to West Michigan families with special needs, has partnered with Celebration! Cinema to give families the opportunity to enjoy the movie theater experience.

“We give families who would not otherwise be able to attend events like enjoying a movie the chance to do so,” Eppard said.

Celebration! Cinema Provides A Relaxed Atmosphere Where Movie-Goers Can Be Themselves

Here are the accommodations Celebration! Cinema makes for families at these events:

  • Lights will dim, but remain on.
  • Volume will be lowered.
  • Movies begin at show time with limited or no previews.
  • Shown in 2D with open captioning.
  • Cheering, calling out, or even strolling around the theater is welcome
  • Families can arrive and get situated 30 minutes before the theater is open for regular movie showings
  • All attendees receive a $2 discount on tickets

Movie-goers are allowed and encouraged to enjoy being in the movie theater, regardless of how non-conventional or seemingly distracting that may seem.

“We have the saying that, ‘Shhhhh! is not allowed,’ ” Eppard said.

Check Out The Schedule For Upcoming Events

There are two events left on the schedule for the current year, but new events for 2020 will be added soon.

Showtimes, locations, and more can be found here.

Families are welcome to check out these events and see for themselves if this could be a fun, regular outing for their special family.

“We are pleased that the people at Celebration! Cinema see the value of providing these events to the public. They do such a good job of accommodating and making families feel welcome. They go out of their way to make this a special thing,” Eppard said.