The UK Cinema Association, supported by the Alzheimer’s Society and the BFI Film Audience Network (FAN), have today launched a free awareness video on dementia friendly screenings (DFS) for all cinemas, to accompany written guidance produced in 2016.

The awareness video – launched on World Alzheimer’s day – has been developed and supported by people with dementia, cinemas who have regularly programmed DFS, industry experts and Alzheimer’s Society, the UK’s leading dementia charity.

In becoming ‘dementia friendly’, cinema staff are made aware on how to make small adjustments to the environment that create a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere for people with dementia. Alzheimer’s Society’s Dementia Friends programme is the biggest ever initiative to change people’s perceptions of dementia, aiming to transform the way the nation acts, thinks, talks about the condition.

DFS are intended to ‘open up’ cinemas and cinema-going to people with all types of dementia and associated conditions such as Alzheimer’s.

The launch of this additional video resource is intended to remind people of the importance of DFS and to encourage cinemas to think about reintroducing these screenings at their venues – when the time is right.

Elements of a traditional cinema screening can discourage visits from people with dementia and their families, many of whom don’t get the chance to experience normal activities like going to the cinema in their local communities. Their key concerns often include finding it more difficult to get to the venue or finding their way around, responding to a film or scene in an unexpected way, and how staff, volunteers or other visitors will react to their symptoms.

The video tackles this with guidance on how to make small adjustments, such as altering the volume and lighting levels. As a result, people who go to dementia friendly screenings feel more comfortable and able to enjoy the big screen experience again.

Despite many cinemas and venues across the UK offering relaxed performances for those who might benefit, there is still a need for more cinemas to participate to ensure this opportunity is available across the UK.

Welcoming the launch of the resource, Phil Clapp, Chief Executive of the UK Cinema Association, said:

‘Prior to Covid, the positive response from audiences to dementia friendly screenings has seen more and more UK cinemas look to offer these shows, with these becoming a regular feature of programming at a range of sites across the UK. At the same time, there is also increasing interest in offering a broader range of content, for example for older audiences.

In partnership with the Alzheimer’s Society and the BFI Film Audience Network, the UK Cinema Association has produced an awareness video to accompany its written guide for cinemas and their staff, all with the aim of helping to deliver even more high-quality dementia friendly screenings for local communities and audiences.’

Kate Lee, CEO of Alzheimer’s Society, said:

‘We’re delighted to support the UK Cinema Association’s awareness video to help cinema spaces and staff become more dementia friendly. People with dementia have the right to live the life they want and continue to do the things they enjoy, like spending valuable time with their loved ones and going for a trip to the cinema.

People with the condition have been worst hit by coronavirus, and in the last 18 months they have been isolated and severely impacted by a loss of routine, which we know is vital to maintain wellbeing. As we all start to get ‘back to normal’, we must ensure that people with dementia aren’t left behind. Alzheimer’s Society is here to support the 850,000 people with dementia in the UK, and to provide guidance for all organisations to become more dementia aware. This will help people with the condition remain part of the community, and able to safely continue to do the things they love.’

Chapter Arts, the venue featured in the video, said:

‘After such a long period of isolation in the pandemic we are looking forward to bringing back dementia friendly screenings. The afternoons spending time together, watching a film and having a chat afterwards are some of my favourite days in the month and makes our venue much more welcoming for customers. It is hugely beneficial to our business and the local community.’

Toki Allison, BFI Film Audience Network Inclusion Project Manager at Film Hub Wales, said:

‘It’s never been more important for us to look at how we make audiences feel safe and welcomed into cinema spaces, particularly those audiences who may have already felt excluded before the pandemic and have found returning difficult. These resources help to destigmatise people’s understanding of dementia and to build confidence in a workforce who are devoted to providing meaningful experiences for their communities.

In the independent cinema sector, we have seen cinemas step up to support their audiences above and beyond just screening films, and this is an important part of that work to make sure that cinema is accessible to anyone, whatever their needs. We all deserve to enjoy the escapism of the big screen experience.’

The dementia friendly screenings video and written guide can be found here.

The full Press Notice announcing the launch of the resource can be found here.