"Grinch" Will have Sensory Friendly Special Screening at Marquee Pullman

"Grinch" Will have Sensory Friendly Special Screening at Marquee Pullman

Proactively addressing a "special needs" dilema for thousands of parents, the West Virginia Autism Training Center, Marquee Cinemas and the Huntington Regional Chamber of Commerce have come together for  a special, spectrum-friendly screening of this year's animated movie "The Grinch"  at 10 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 8, at Pullman Square in downtown Huntington.

Dr. Marc Ellison, executive director of the West Virginia Autism Training Center, located at Marshall University. said that nationally adjusted accommodating screenings for autistic are not new. But there have been only a few hosted in WV.

Due to special needs, the auditorium lights are not completely dimmed, the volume will be lowered, outside snacks for special diets are allowed, and no one complains about utterances or moving about. 

According to the Autism Society the first screening took place in 2007 in Maryland.

 Marianne Ross, of Elkridge Maryland took her young daughter, Meaghan, to a matinee  to see a movie starring one of her most beloved actors. She intentionally picked an early showing figuring there would be fewer people there, but when Meaghan, at that time seven years old, saw her main man on the big screen she began to flap her hands, dance, twirl and jump up and down. Unfortunately a few other movie-goers complained to staff, and the manager asked the Ross’ to leave.

Marianne was frustrated, upset, and a bit angry – Meaghan was so happy and the movie-going experience ended up being so negative. It occurred to her that there were probably a lot of people who found themselves in a similar situation – or worse yet, didn’t even try to go see a movie for fear of the possible outcomes. The next day Marianne called her local AMC Theatre in Columbia Maryland. She asked if Dan Harris, the manager, would be willing to set up a special screening for children on the autism spectrum. Harris, not only took Marianne up on her suggestions, he made some additional adaptations to make the movie even more sensory-friendly. Marianne spread the word about the upcoming screening through her local Autism Society Affiliate and amazingly, 300 people showed up and they had to turn some people away because there was no more room in the movie auditorium.

Since then several major cinema chains have instituted sensory friendly screenings.

Earlier this year, an incident similar to the Marianne Ross occurrence happened at a Barboursville cinema. As written, one patron complained of "loud breathing" of a child on a ventilator. Although the cinema offered a "special screening", the family turned down the offer ripping social media with the treatment issue. 

A quick Google indicates that autistic individuals and their family have been ejected from a variety of cinemas. 

it's unknown (to HNN) whether the distressed Tri-State family ventured to another location since the incident. (NOTE: In 2013, the same Barboursville  cinema did hold a sensory favorable showing of "Frozen" on Dec. 21, 2013) 

Dr. Ruh Sullivan helped open the Tri-State's eyes to the autistic condition. her son, Joseph, has autism. 

In 1988, the movie “Rain Man” starring Dustin Hoffman was released and greatly affected the nationwide autism community. One of the two autistic savant role models Hoffman studied to prepare for his role of Raymond Babbitt in the movie was Joseph Sullivan.

Hoffman studied the 1985 UCLA documentary about Joseph called “Portrait of an Autistic Young Man”, hours of its outtakes, and met Joe during the filming of the movie. Ruth Sullivan had been hired as a consultant on the movie and she and Joseph appeared on several national talk shows following its release. After the movie, autism became a household word and although most people may not have known someone with the disorder, they were now at least familiar with the term.  

A premier of the movie was held in Huntington as a fundraiser for Autism Services Center and was attended by Dustin Hoffman, the director Barry Levinson and the producer of the movie. Proceeds from the event were used as a down payment on the first house purchased by ASC.

Marquee Pullman General manager  Charlotte Alesi said in a newspaper article,  "Nobody's going to get mad if someone is loud or if they stand up, and I'm just glad to be a part of something like this for the community."

Tickets are $6.00. More info including registration will be found on MU's Autistic Services Facebook page. 

if the screening receives a favorable response, more may be added. 

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