HAMPTON — The Drenning family watched a movie together at a theater for the very first time Saturday.
Gareth, 13, is severely
"We're afraid of taking him to a regular movie theater because he might aggravate other people," said father Robert Drenning, of
But Saturday's showing of
It was billed as one of AMC's "Sensory Friendly Films." About 130 AMC theaters in 62 markets provided the special screening.
"We're proud to partner with the Autism Society to offer this terrific option for familes who are looking for this type of experience," said Ryan Noonan, AMC's public relations director.
The idea stems from a request by a parent of an autistic child for a special screening in Columbia, Md., a few years ago. More than 300 children and parents attended the first movie.
Unlike other shows, the lights during the 10 a.m. screening were dimmed but not turned off. The audience of about 80 people wasn't as quiet as it normally would be. Hushed talking could be heard amid crunches of popcorn, with a few short exclamations, bursts of clapping and loud laughter.
Tamecka Turner of Mathews brought her 20-year-old sister, Brittany Perrin-Turner, who has a form of autism called Rett Syndrome.
Once Brittany was kicked out of a theater "because she made a sound," Turner said.
Then she read about Saturday's "Cars 2" showing.
"I was like, 'We won't get kicked out of that one,'" Turner said.
Mary Helsel, who has two sons with autism, said loud noises during movies can bother her boys. Christopher, 15, gets agitated and fidgety, and Adam, 10, plugs his ears and rocks, the Newport News mother said.
One part of the movie bothered Christopher, but otherwise, they enjoyed the show, she said.
"It was nice to know there was no judgment because other families were in the same situation," she said. "It's nice to be in an environment where they can be themselves."