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Let's ALL Go to the Movies

Cinema Makes Sensory-Sensitive Accommodations

February 2, 2015
By Betsy Bethel - Associate Life Editor , The Intelligencer/Wheeling News-Register

It's something many families take for granted: When a new movie comes out that caters to kids, they all head out to see it together. Until Marquee Cinemas in Triadelphia partnered with a local special needs support group last year, however, that was impossible for families such as the Pelleys of Moundsville.

They could take their 10-year-old son, Hiram, but their 6-year-old daughter, Lacey, is on the autism spectrum and doesn't tolerate loud noises and crowds. She would have to stay home with her grandparents.

"I've never attempted to take her to a regular movie," mom Tammy Pelley said. "She looks normal, but she's not. People stare, and they can be rude. That's why sometimes I don't even try to take her places, which bothers me because we're a family of four not three."

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Last year, however, Marquee responded to a request made by a member of the Ohio Valley Special Needs and Autism Parent Support group, or OV?SNAPS, to offer special sensory-sensitive showings of first-run movies.

OV SNAPS has organized three such showings at Marquee so far, with a fourth scheduled for 10 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 28. The film is "The Spongebob Movie: Sponge Out of Water."

The showings feature fewer crowds and lines, brighter lights (dim rather than dark), lower volume and the understanding that it's OK to make noise and roam the aisles.

"Our theater down in Beckley had just done it," Mike Anderson, Marquee general manager, said of the special accommodations. When he asked the corporate office in Beckley, he got the OK to do it at The Highlands.

Claudia Raymer of Moundsville, OV SNAPS leader and mother of a child on the autism spectrum, said she appreciates Anderson "taking a chance" and being willing to accommodate the group members' needs.

"He's just been phenomenal," she said.

Now instead of worrying about keeping her son quiet in the theater, Raymer can relax knowing the other patrons understand. Kids walk around, engage in spinning or rocking behaviors common with autism and "nobody's judging that," she said.

"It really is a safe and accepting environment."

Pelley said she appreciates that Lacey can get out of her seat, and the environment doesn't cause her distress.

"We were just like everybody else. We understood each other," she said of attending the special showings.

She added: "There's so many kids that have problems you don't realize. It's very good they're coming out with stuff like this."

Raymer said that although they are children's movies - the other titles were "Planes: Fire and Rescue," "Penguins of Madagascar" and "Boxtrolls" - adults with disabilities also may attend.

"We had a call asking if it would be appropriate for a family of typical members to come, but the father is a combat veteran with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder)," Raymer said. "Absolutely anyone who needs the sound down and the lights up ... is welcome."

Additional special showings will be scheduled as long as there is a need. Marquee manager Anderson would like to see them occur once a month.

"We know that this is a resource for families and we'd like to see more families use the resource. We just really want to see people come out and just give it a try," Raymer said.

To sign up to attend the Feb. 28 movie, call Raymer at 304-232-5600 or email



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