Movie house going extra mile
Theater offering “sensory” film showings for special needs audience
by By Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
Feb 05, 2014 | 3119 views | 0 0 comments | 76 76 recommendations | email to a friend | print
SPECIAL SHOWINGS – Frank Theatres Cinema 12 has begun “sensory” movie showings for children on Saturday mornings, and the response has been very good.
SPECIAL SHOWINGS – Frank Theatres Cinema 12 has begun “sensory” movie showings for children on Saturday mornings, and the response has been very good.
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Jan. 19 was a day like no other at the Frank Theatres South Cove 12. The 10 a.m. movie started, and the lights were dimmed, the sound was lowered, and no trailers were shown.

Sounds pretty good, right? That’s what the attendees thought too, as the first-ever “sensory” movie showing at the Lefante Way multiplex was offered.

The showing of “Walking with Dinosaurs” was different in that it was tailored toward a special needs audience—but not exclusive of the general one—when the movie was presented.

Bayonne resident Elisha Demaria was pretty happy with the undertaking.

“The audience is allowed to make sounds, noise, etc., without being quieted,” she said. “I think I speak for the special-needs community and parents when I say we are very appreciative.”

Demaria took her son to the movie specifically because it was that type of showing. And in fact, Michael Bruckler, Frank Theatres' general manager, credited her with being the catalyst behind the effort.

“It was kind of her brainchild,” he said. “She emailed corporate headquarters in Jupiter, Florida, about it.”

Bruckler’s boss liked the idea for the special presentation and brought it up with the Bayonne manager, employed at this facility since 2012.

“He pitched the idea to me to see if I would like to do it,” he said. “I thought it’s something that's great for the community. So I just took it and ran with it.”

Bruckler and his boss weren’t the only ones to find great value in the initiative.

“We had a really good turnout the first day we had it. It pretty much sold out,” the general manager said. “We had about 120 that showed up for the first one.”

The response was so good, in fact, that when Bruckler scheduled the second sensory showing on Feb. 1, he booked it for auditorium number three, the biggest in the complex, which holds 300 people.

“Saturday morning was another success,” he said after that show. “It still did very well. We’re planning on doing the next show on March 1st for the Lego Movie.”

And though many special-needs children attended the screenings, it’s a presentation that can be enjoyed by everyone.

“It’s not necessarily for people with disabilities,” Bruckler said. “There are a lot of kids with autism and Down syndrome. But, it’s pretty much a mixed crowd. They're all comfortable bringing their families in.”

“They’re allowed to talk during the movie in the theater. They’re free to move about,” he said. “It’s not a strict regular movie where there’s no talking. It’s a sensory movie as in it’s not completely dark. The lights are not down. It’s enough for parents to keep an eye on their kids.”

“And the sound doesn’t allow for large explosions,” Bruckler said. “It’s pretty low. You can definitely hear the movie, but it's not too loud to trigger young kids.”

Tickets are only $6, so it is affordable as well.

“That pretty much covers the labor; the projector, electricity, and staffing,” Bruckler said.

“We open the concession stand. But we pretty much break even.”

Program promotion

The promotion has been low cost because Demaria has personally done a lot to publicize it with flyers and word of mouth.

“We’re advertising online, so there's been no cost to us. We put it on the theater's Facebook site,” the general manager said. “The costs have been low and the turnout’s been amazing.”

There is one proviso, he said, but it’s not a cumbersome one: attendees at this special showing must be there at 10 a.m. sharp, when the movie starts.

“There are no trailers shown, so we can keep to the schedule,” he said. “We need enough time to clean the theater and show the next show. We have to cut time where we can.”

Ongoing presentation

The goal is to have at least one special performance a month, and two, if possible.

Though the program is just getting off the ground, Bruckler believes it will be ongoing as long as the response is there.

“I think it will continue, definitely,” he said. “As long as people come out and support it, we’re going to definitely keep offering it to the community.”

Demaria was ecstatic about the movie theater’s cooperation.

“Everybody at Frank’s was super helpful and nice, and the families all had a great time,” she said after the premiere. “I know my son and I did.”

Joseph Passantino may be reached at JoePass@hudsonreporter.com.

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