The Mighty Logo

5 Reasons Going to Movie Theaters Is Hard as an Autistic Adult

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

It’s summertime and all the nerdy blockbuster hits are coming to theaters. My love for all things nerdy (especially movies) has always been there. As an autistic child, I loved going to the movies and being immersed in another world. But as I’ve grown into adulthood, I’ve found I have a love/hate relationship with going to the movie theater. With technology and the internet, it’s so important to see blockbuster hits such as Marvel or Star Wars as soon as possible or the movie might be spoiled. So, I try to see these movies as soon as they come out. But as society has changed, so has going to the theater. During the pandemic, I loved that you could watch newly released movies at home. Since the restrictions have been lifted, so have some of the accommodations.

Why are movie theaters hard as an autistic adult?

1. The need to be there super early.

I get anxious if I’m not at the movies at least 30 minutes before the movie starts — 45 minutes if anyone is wanting popcorn. This isn’t just because I’m worried about getting a seat. It’s also because I don’t want to miss anything. I want the time to be able to get snacks, go to the bathroom, and find my seat without being rushed. There have been times when I’ve gotten to the movies right when the previews started, which usually resulted in a meltdown.

2. Anxiety about seating.

While having reserved seating can help calm this anxiety, I still worry about who is going to sit next to me, if they are going to talk through the movie, have their feet on the back of my chair, or if they are coughing and sick. I’ve been known to change seats just because of people near me.

3. Movie theaters don’t display closed captioning.

While it is possible to get a closed captioning device at some theaters, they are often cumbersome and frustrating. It’s hard to see the captions and pay attention to the movie, since they are on different screens. Sometimes the music can be too loud and the voices too quiet and it’s hard to pay attention to the dialogue and watch the movie at the same time.

4. Movie theaters can be uncomfortable.

It can be hard to get comfortable in stiff seats. Even the ones that recline aren’t always comfortable. I love being able to curl up on my couch at home and watch movies. I can stim and get as excited as I want to. However, in theaters, there are different rules for how you are expected to behave, and I often find myself masking my autism.

5. There are a lot of distractions.

You can’t control what goes on in the theater. People may talk, walk in front of you, or be on their phones, which can be hard as an autistic. Things like this take me out of the movie and make it hard to enjoy the theater.

I hope that in the future more movies will come back to being on demand and in the theaters. Movies at home make entertainment accessible to everyone, not just to autistics.

Getty image by Edwin Tan.

Originally published: May 16, 2022
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home