Venezuela’s first sensory-friendly cinema

World Today


One of the largest movie chains in Venezuela is rethinking its business in an effort to serve customers living with autism and other sensory disorders. 

CINEX, a local movie theater chain in Venezuela is the promoter of the idea.

The initiative is specially designed for people living with autism, down syndrome, and other sensory disorders – making it one of its kind in the country.

45-year-old Dayana Pera is the mother of Bruno and an 11-year-old boy who was diagnosed with autism. Pera says the entertainment options for her son were limited.

“There were no alternatives before now to take him to,” explains Pera.  “My son would get upset with the lights and loud sounds. I was constantly going in and out, on the few occasions I took him to the movies.”

For people with disabilities and sensory sensitivity, going to the movies can be an overwhelming experience.The screening room has been carefully adjusted to reduce stress and sensory input. 

Some lights are left on low, and the sound and brightness of the screen are controlled to avoid overstimulation. And all visitors are allowed to move around freely if they want.

For Gabriel Barboza, who has been living with autism since he was a little boy, it’s a significant shift in comparison to a conventional movie screening. 

 “Unlike other movie theaters the door of the screening room is kept open, in case we want to leave due to a sensory overload,” said Barboza.

There are no recent official government figures for how many people with disabilities live in Venezuela. Despite having legislation to promote inclusion, advocates say the country still has a long way to go. 

For the past 30 years, the Venezuelan civil association ASODECO has been working to help people with special needs. Nelly Goncalves the director of ASODECO explains that most people with disabilities live in a challenging environment that often prevents them from working and entertaining themselves.

 “One of the difficulties that our country faces, in general, is the lack of access for people with special needs,” says Goncalves. “Most spaces are not accessible not only for people with mental disabilities but also physical ones.”

Outside of the screening room in Caracas, a safe area is available to decompress if necessary.

At the concession stand, there are also changes, offering a selection of healthy treats such as sugar, gluten, and lactose-free items.

78 seats are available at this movie theater. Every Tuesday and Saturday, movie lovers can come for a unique cinema experience.

Planning for the friendly screening project began two years ago but it was officially launched in September last year. All staff members were trained to provide assistance.

General Manager of Venezuela’s CINEX Rocco Lasalvia says they hope to cause a positive impact among people with disabilities living in the country.

 “What we are looking for is to open new spaces in which we can offer these communities entertainment and leisure through movies,” Lasalvia said.

The company plans to expand its program to other locations nationwide, opening doors to a place where everybody can feel welcome.