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Blackfoot Movie Mill bringing sensory friendly film to people with autism

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BLACKFOOT — A local movie theater is doing what it can to provide a fun and easygoing environment for individuals who have autism and their families.

The Blackfoot Movie Mill will be showing a sensory-friendly film of ‘Clifford the Big Red Dog’ for the first time on Saturday. According to the Autism Society, a sensory-friendly film is an opportunity for individuals living with autism and others to enjoy their favorite films in a safe and accepting environment. In order to provide a more accepting and comfortable setting, the movie auditorium keeps its lights turned slightly up and the sound turned down. Attendees are welcome to get up and dance, walk, shout or sing.

“It’s important for families and individuals to be able to have that escape and that’s why I love the movies,” said Brandon Lott, general manager of Royal Theaters.

Lott said the Blackfoot Movie Mill was approached by a local woman named TJ with the idea for the sensory movie. Lott said before COVID-19, they had tried the sensory movie idea out four times because it was such a success.

“It’s such a gracious gift from the Lott family. It just touches me and moves me because it’s changing lives and it’s changing families,” says TJ, who asked that her last name not be used for privacy reasons. “This helps the whole family go and enjoy a ‘normal activity’ that everyone else really takes for granted. I cry. I get very, very emotional because it’s such a gift.”

TJ has a 13-year-old son who has autism.

“My son has a lot of sensory issues. So loud noises are very, very hard for him to handle. Anxiety goes hand in hand with autism, which is very hard for some people to leave the house because that’s their safe space,” she said.

TJ created a Facebook group two years ago called Autism Friends of Bingham, which includes parent support, online discussions, and help with community resources. A movie like the one being brought to the Blackfoot Movie Mill means a lot to her and her group of friends.

Autism group
Public page and private group TJ created | Courtesy TJ

“I know when we had our first sensory movie, there were three families that had never been able to go to a movie before. One family had a child that repeated everything so as the movie was playing, he was yelling out and she (the mother) said it was the first time she felt comfortable taking him to a movie and that young man happened to be 15-years-old. It was the first time he went to a movie theater,” TJ said.

The sensory movie will happen on Nov. 13. Doors open at 9:30 a.m. and the movie starts at 10 a.m. Tickets are $2 per person.

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Movie poster for Clifford the Big Red Dog

“We are going to try this one and if it goes well, we are going to continue to do them and hopefully get back into a monthly routine schedule,” Lott said.

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