The usual trip to cinema can be a sensory hell for many autistic people; the dark lights, the fidgety wait for the movie to start, the uncomfortable seats and dirty, sticky floors. Luckily now many cinemas across the county are changing the way autistic people are viewing the cinema. Relaxed screenings have become more popular in recent years with cinemas using dim lighting and an open seating plan to create a more comfortable atmosphere for autistic viewers. Me and my great colleague Sarah went along to the British Film Institute in central London on a wet, rainy Monday afternoon to attend a relaxed screening of the 1941 romantic comedy classic The Lady Eve, which was shown as part of the BFI’s Barbara Stanwyck season.
Before we even got to the screening, the BFI provided us with a package which explained a little about the film and a step by step guide about the relaxed screening - including very detailed pictures of the cinema and where to sit. We got to the BFI early and sat in the auditorium until we could enter the cinema where the film was showing. The BFI opens the doors for the relaxed screenings half an hour before the film started. We then could sit anywhere we wanted in the cinema so naturally I took the one with the nearest table and placed conveniently near the exit. The lights were dim as we entered – so weren’t plunged into the usual dark abyss that normally happens when you enter a cinema. The lights stayed at this level of brightness throughout the film.
The freedom to move around meant that it was a more casual environment with patrons coming and going as they please. The seats were very big and comfy, which is a big plus for me! There was also a room with chairs for anyone who wanted a break from the movie.
The events team from BFI were two lovely people called Maggie and Richard, who first explained to the audience about the relaxed screening and then about the film we were about to watch. I admit I knew very little about this film before I was assigned to write this blog but it seemed fun from what I read about it on the pamphlet. After they left the film began straight away, with no trailers, which was a relief.
After the movie we were moved into a social space arranged by the BFI in their blue room. The two-event staff were there along with other people from the BFI who were answering questions about the experience and the film. It was also a chance for the audience to mingle and chat about what they just saw. I chatted to some of the staff, took a lot of chocolate biscuit fingers and left.
The film, while not my thing was a harmless romantic comedy, with Stanwyck shining as the lead and the cast shouting 1930’s slang at each other. It is very much of it’s time though, with most of the gags physical as Henry Fonda just kept falling into things (and people).
The relaxed experience was very good, and the BFI will have more on in the future so keep checking their website.
About the author
Solmaz is Ambitious about Autism’s Marketing and Communications intern. She loves writing, and also has interests in music, technology and beauty products.