NAME: Amy Averett
JOB TITLE: National Director of Family and Community Programming
ORGANIZATION: Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas
TELL US ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS/ORGANIZATION:
The Alamo Drafthouse is dinner, drinks, movies and events, all under one roof. Our attention to detail in film presentation and programming has made us a second home to movie fans all over the planet and earned accolades from the likes of Entertainment Weekly (#1 theater in America), Wired.com (Coolest Movie Theater in the World) and Fandango.com (One of the Best Theaters in the Country).
HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN WORKING WITH THE AUTISM COMMUNITY/KIDS WITH AUTISM?
It’s something we have discussed many times, but it really got our attention when STAR WARS EPISODE VII came out in 2015. Parents were so excited to share STAR WARS with their kids, but we knew that it would be challenging for kids, and especially kids with autism, to adhere to our strict no talking policy. For years we’d offered weekly Baby Day screenings (which are essentially sensory-friendly screenings). We were also hearing from working parents that they needed weekend show times. “Baby Day” grew up into a new program with an expanded scope (and a new name! – Alamo for All) to accommodate guests with autism and other special sensory needs, too — while also helping to better fit the schedules of working parents.
HOW LONG HAS THE PROGRAM BEEN GOING?
GIVE US SOME SUCCESS STORIES/CHALLENGES ALONG THE WAY?
This is a great story from one of our Texas locations: In October 2016, our Austin branch partnered with the Autism Society of Central Texas and corporate sponsors Microsoft and Catapult to host their first Autism Film Festival.
Through film and video we were able to raise awareness in a broader community about life with autism. The films we chose showed a range of ages and abilities, and the challenges and triumphs, (however big or small), that living with autism can bring. Viewers were able to witness the dedication and support so many families provide to give individuals with autism the greatest chance of reaching their full potential.
The response was amazing! We sold over 150 tickets and had an additional 30-40 volunteers who were able to participate in the film festival. We received wonderful feedback from participants and loved seeing so many people who are new to autism come and participate in our event. This event was inclusive of all and we were able to raise over $26k for Central Texans living with autism!
WHAT ARE YOUR TIPS AND/OR ADVICE FOR PARENTS/FAMILIES LOOKING INTO YOUR PROGRAM?
“Alamo for All” screenings are sensory friendly, specially designated screenings – the house lights are left a little brighter and the sound is turned down a little lower, plus:
- Moving around the theater and noise will be allowed.
- Latecomers will be permitted.
- The use of cell phones or other non-essential devices, however, will still be discouraged.
Parents can rest assured, the launch of “Alamo for All” comes with a new, clarified approach to the Alamo Drafthouse’s “No Talking” policy, ensuring that guests with autism or other needs who are not able to strictly adhere to the rules are given a bit of leeway – and not just at sensory friendly screenings, but at ALL Alamo Drafthouse shows.
This commitment comes from the top, Alamo Drafthouse CEO and Founder Tim League: “We strive to be a fully inclusive environment. ANYONE should be able to set foot in an Alamo Drafthouse and feel welcomed, comfortable and a part of the family. Our policies are not designed to exclude or alienate; rather, they’ve always been intended to curb blatantly rude behavior.”
Finally, we’ve made finding a sensory friendly screening at your local Alamo Drafthouse and planning your next trip is easy – just check the dedicated Alamo for All page on our website: https://drafthouse.com/program/alamo-for-all — for an up-to-the-minute list of screenings in your area as well as full details on sensory friendly policies.
DESCRIBE HOW WORKING WITH KIDS WITH AUTISM MAKES YOU FEEL IN FIVE WORDS.
Thrilled to welcome you in!