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Gentle Viewing' of Pixar's Brave'

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BANGOR Going to the movies is something many families can do without a second thought. We're conditioned, even before the lights go down to be quiet, turn off your electronics, and buy some popcorn. But for many families, the cinematic experience is difficult, if not entirely impossible.

When Shane Leonard met his girlfriend Janice, he also met her autistic son. All were avid movie fans, but Leonard found out quickly the difficulty involved in bringing the young man to regular shows. Back in Illinois, Janice would travel 2 hours to attend sensory friendly shows that were put on by the AMC on a monthly basis. But when she moved to Maine she was saddened to find no such options in the area at least not regularly.

So, with the help of Sue Bragdon at Bangor Mall Cinemas, they have kicked off the first of hopefully a series of 'Gentle Viewings,' also known as sensory-friendly shows. The first show was of Pixar's 'Brave' on July 16 at 10 a.m. If it is successful, hopefully there will be similar offerings. Leonard hopes that they will start having them on weekends when more families and organizations can participate.

Leonard explained on the Facebook event page that ''sensory-friendly' films are when a theater shows a movie where the lights are left on, the sound isn't as high, kids are welcome to move freely if they wish, talking isn't discouraged, and special diets are accommodated.'

These accommodations are for people with special needs, such as autism, where too much stimulation can cause sensory overload.

'What's most important about sensory-friendly films is the atmosphere of acceptance and non-judgment,' said Leonard. 'In other words, you're not going to get dirty looks or get thrown out of the theater if your child can't stay in their seat or be quiet.'

And for some parents of children with special needs, this may be the first such opportunity that has come along in some time. This may be the first opportunity for some children to experience a movie, an experience most children and adults take for granted.

Leonard isn't worried that there will be a low turnout. He's more worried that too many would show up and they would have to turn people away.

'If you or I went to see a show and it was sold out, we could go to another showing,' he said. 'Parents of kids with special needs don't have that option.'

Also, the theater allowed those with special diets to bring their own food to the show, and they allowed patrons to use refrigerator and hot or cold water should anyone need access to such things in addition to the standard concession stand fare.

Last modified on Thursday, 19 July 2012 14:33

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