It all started because Meaghan Ross wanted to dance.Pure joy--that's often how I describe my daughter in those moments. Those times when she is dancing, jumping, flapping, and giggling. I'd never think my child would get in trouble for being happy. Go figure.
Last summer, Meaghan's mother, Marianne Ross, took her to see the movie Hairspray. Because Meaghan has autism, and Marianne knows she can get excited during movies, she chose an early-in-the-day showing, when the theater would be nearly empty.
During the show, the Elkridge 8-year-old was so enchanted by the upbeat music and energetic dancing that she began to move her body. She wanted to dance in the aisles, but instead she was asked to leave the theater, her mother said.
"She got kicked out because she can't really sit still," said Ross. "She flaps her hands and gets really excited. ... I was just so upset when she was kicked out. She was just the picture of pure joy."
Meaghan's mom was amazed that the AMC general manager agreed to her request: create a showing just for children with special needs. The first movie had 300 people in attendance, and they've had them monthly since November. The movies are at 9:30 in the morning, there are no trailers, and special care is taken with regard to the sound and lighting. AMC is considering adding this to other markets. I've heard of similar programs at other theaters. I think many of us can relate to what these parents have to say:
"It's just ... everybody understands," said Ross. Before the show starts, the lights are adjusted until "everybody is satisfied," she said. The sound is likewise adjusted, and during the movie, people often move around or talk. "Anything goes," she said. "We're all in the same boat."
"The world is so cruel to people who are different," said Michele Schwarzman. But at the AMC films, she said, "we can sit in the theater and nobody will comment."