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Sonic Cinema

Inclusive community cinema events for people who may find going to the movies challenging. Photos: Bruce Barnard

Melanie Mills is orchestrating a novel way to get non movie-going kids in front of the big screen for the very first time.

Sonic Cinema is already a proven success, with students, care givers and teachers beyond impressed.

Deputy Principal of Greerton Village School, Kimberley Henderson-Ginns, says many of their children have yet to attend the movies, but they returned from Sonic Cinema having loved the entire experience.

“We sent about 12-to-15 children, with staff, to Sonic Cinema,” says Kimberley.

“There were a range of needs. Some are autistic, some are visionary impaired, and some children are in wheelchairs.

“Melanie sent lots of information about the theatre so they could prepare before they went. When they returned, the students and staff were beyond excited. It was an incredible experience.”

Melanie describes the theatre as a fun, inclusive cinematic experience for anyone who finds going to the movies confronting or challenging.

“Whether this be due to sensory, neurological or physical challenges, we try to accommodate for as many people as we can with our cinema adaptations,” she says.

She has been running the Cult Cinema Club at the Historic Village Cinema on 17th Avenue since 2017, with Sonic Cinema being her latest cinematic endeavour.

“Sonic Cinema came about because going to the cinema isn’t always a straight forward activity for some people. We wanted to make adaptions and cater to their comfort so as many people as possible can enjoy the inclusion and experience of going to the movies”.

Inspired by the global ‘sensory cinema’ concept hosted for children on the autism spectrum, and Melanie’s past experience working in disability services, Sonic Cinema aims to be an accommodating, all inclusive cinematic experience for people of any age who face a range of challenges.

Melanie approached Blair Graham at Tauranga Historic Village, and before the first Sonic Cinema event was held, a specially-designed access ramp was put in place.

“Tauranga City Council strives to make the city accessible to everyone, so that people are able to move about easily and safely without being limited by the environment,” says Blair.

“When Melanie approached us with her idea, we were very keen to work with her to achieve the best result. We are supportive of any initiative that has a positive effect on people’s inclusion. It has been extremely rewarding for us to know it has already made a difference.”

“With each screening, the lights are left on but they’ve very dim,” says Melanie. ”The volume is turned down, and patrons can make as much noise as they need.

“Even though the cinema seats 60 people, the maximum we have at each event is 30 including carers, so cinema patrons can move around and be comfortable.

“As many sensory needs are met within the cinema as possible. Essentially, we want to make Sonic Cinema an enjoyable experience for as many people as we possibly can.”

“One of the mums was so grateful because she never thought her child would be able to handle being in a movie theatre,” says Kimberley. “Because of this, she feels she can take her again.”

Sonic Cinema is sponsored by Tauranga City Council, The Historic Village, Simpson Greirson, Legacy Accountants and LowercaseG. Although there will be public events, Sonic can also be booked for private groups. Tickets to screenings are $5 and include popcorn and juice with caregivers free.

A downloadable ‘Social Story’ with pictures and information about Sonic Cinema are also available on request when booking tickets. For further information contact: info@soniccinemanz.com

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