Our local Regal Cinema kicked out a mom and her son with ASD – at “Finding Dory”

22 Jun

No. Really. The theater we take Maura to, the one where we saw “Frozen” three times, the one where her teenage siblings go to see all the movies, needs some sensitivity training.

I spotted a post in my area special needs parenting group from another mom. She decided “Finding Dory” would be a good first movie theater experience for her son with ASD.

She was wrong.

“We went to Regal Cinemas [Eastside Seattle] to see finding dory in 3D (6/21/2016) for the 7:20pm showing. The theater wasn’t crowded at all, and we chose seats away from most of the people so we wouldn’t bother anyone and could leave easily if need be. A. has autism, though I believe it’s high functioning autism, as he’s really low on the spectrum. He’s 3.5 years old. The manager came up to us and told me that he’d gotten several complaints about my son and that if I couldn’t keep him under control then we would need to leave. A. was moving around and switching seats a lot, but no one was in the nearby seats and we were low enough in the stands that people couldn’t see too well. He was excited when characters would come on the screen so he would be a little loud but I would shush him and have him come sit down. He even rolled on the floor for his sensory needs because he was a little overwhelmed. But he wasn’t being that disruptive, compared to so many children I’ve seen in theaters. After we left, the friends we’d come with ended up staying and she called me after the showing to tell me that after we left someone brought an infant in who was crying and being more disruptive than A. but nothing was done about them, so we were singled out.”

That’s right – they were told he had to be quiet and still, or leave.

The children’s movie.

Made for children.

The children’s movie about a fish with disabilities.

credit – Pixar

They were given a refund but, according to the mother – “I just felt so judged for A’s diagnosis and that I’m a failure of a mom.” She thought he was doing so well, being pretty quiet and all. But instead of his first movie experience being a fun outing, it’s left this mother feeling horrible.

Great job Regal.

Forget the autism part – 3.5 yr old kids don’t sit well. My mom would say “You have to choose between quiet or sitting still, little kids can’t do both.” I mean, I’m sure some can, but as a general rule, they can’t.

But that’s supposed to be part of the package when you go see a kid’s movie – that there will be kid’s there. When I asked the mom if the people who complained had kids with them, she said “Not that I could see! It looked like it was just a few adults sitting together.”

Okay, so this is making even more sense – adults go to a kid’s movie and get annoyed by kids being kids. Well, at least this one kid. They didn’t seem to have a problem with any other child there, not even a crying baby.

This is where my fellow parents and I get our panties twisted. We’re told to expose our children to places and experiences, that we shouldn’t hide our kids…but at the same time, when we do take our kids out, we get looks, stares, unsolicited advice, complaints that we can’t control our children properly, and sometimes even kicked out.

In a world where we’re supposed to embrace diversity, we don’t feel welcomed. We feel judged. We do our best to ignore it and carry on, but we know there are those who don’t want us out there.

And right now, I’m torn. Our Regal Cinema – this one where this incident happened – does cheap summer movies. Maura LOVES going to the movies. But she’s loud. She laughs loudly at the funny scenes, squeals with excitement, bounces up and down in her seat.

But if a little boy with autism is asked to leave the theater while watching a kid’s movie about a fish with disabilities...well…how am I supposed to feel anything but worry if I take my loud, laughing, bouncy daughter with disabilities to that same theater?

I have asked Regal what their policies are regarding children/people with special needs and am waiting for an answer.


A friend and awesome mom suggested this. I think Regal and Disney should listen to her – “I’d love to see Disney and/Ellen DeGeneres make a PSA to show at the start of the film to prevent such things and to use the film as a platform for disability rights. How would one go about something like that? In reality, one voice complaining to a movie theater is like a drop in the ocean and won’t be heard.”




25 Responses to “Our local Regal Cinema kicked out a mom and her son with ASD – at “Finding Dory””

  1. nanis June 22, 2016 at 1:24 pm #

    I think you should totally publish the location, and also the mom should publish this on her local news site. She will get an apology for sure.

    That is just totally unacceptable.

  2. Dad Enough June 22, 2016 at 1:34 pm #

    I’d want the local theater to be identified, yes. But I think that it’s time that the national chain also come forward and talk about what their policy – and what they tell the local theaters – to do about these situations. If AMC can have sensory-friendly screenings, Regal can at least do their part to make sure their theaters for kids movies are welcoming to our families too.

  3. Missy Kivi June 22, 2016 at 1:40 pm #

    Our Regal here in Fort Wayne Indiana had a sensory friendly showing on Saturday. I guess it is probably up to management. They should have told the adult complainers that it is a children’s movie and they are welcome to a refund.

    • Ruth Davies June 22, 2016 at 8:19 pm #

      I think you’re right on the money!

  4. Laurie Ann Thompson June 22, 2016 at 1:51 pm #

    Everything about this just makes me so darn angry. Horrible of those people to complain, and horrible of Regal to react that way. 😡

    • phoebz4 June 22, 2016 at 1:53 pm #

      seriously. I am not a happy camper.

  5. Autism Mom June 22, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    Tagged Regal Cinemas on Twitter …

  6. Renee Anne June 22, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    I’d be pissed too, honestly. I have two boys and while neither of them have any disabilities (that we know of)……they’re kids! I’ve not taken the little one to the movies because he’s not even 2 yet but the big one has gone a couple times. He’s generally well-behaved but he’s a kid. He’s going to laugh loudly, talk, want to move around, and act like a kid, especially if it’s a kid’s movie. He couldn’t handle Star Wars and Husband took him out of that one. He loved the Minion movie and Shaun the Sheep, however……and he acted like a kid would act, disability or not. For this theater to punish a family with a child with a disability but ignore a crying infant reeks of some sort of -ism that I can’t even think of right now. And yes, parents of children with disabilities are told that they need to get the kids out and have them experience the world and parents of kids without disabilities are told that they need to be respectful of everyone, people are different, blah blah blah……and then things like this happen, which seem to scream two different things: your children need to be part of the real world AND no, we don’t want to see them in the real world. Can’t have it both ways!

    I would also be questioning them on their policies.

  7. Tara June 22, 2016 at 3:01 pm #

    So sad. Around here we have sensory friendly showings but it IS a kids movie. Kids at that age don’t all sit still. We went to a showing of a movie and I heard a youn man who kept repeating lines. One of my sons noticed and as a special educator, I am proud of my boys understanding of their own ADHD and the needs of others. I simply explained that young man sounded like he was enjoying the movie in his own way and we would respect that.

  8. Eric wilson June 22, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    I’m now going to go to a regal cinema with my child with autism and let them try and boot me out. My son is five autistic and very free( meaning he decides where he wants to be and when. Within reason of course). His mother constantly worries about other people and has been in a situation where, while in a children’s play gym has been told our son was scaring other children by running around, yelling and being loud. She left and was half embarrassed and half angry as heck. I take my son anywhere it’s appropriate for a father to bring a child and dare owners or management to discriminate against my child. They will hear the lions roar if they do. As well as quota from the Americans with disabilities act. I tell you all this because as parents we should never allow our children or ourselves to be frightened or sorry for who we are. We owe no apologies or excuses and the court of public opinion as well as media is on our side. I dare these large franchises to discriminate, emotionally harm or cause undo mental strain on my child. I welcome the lawsuit money for when my different-abled child goes to collage.

  9. Sunny Lanning June 23, 2016 at 12:50 am #

    And yet the same theater would allow littles in to see an R-rated movie like Deadpool–hey, no problem! I’ve sat through three hours of the Hobbit with a tiny kid kicking my seat and a baby screaming on and off (in horror at the violation of Tolkien’s text, I’m sure) and no one ever complained! WTF, people. Live and let be.

  10. Amy June 24, 2016 at 1:09 am #

    Totally uncalled for. You would think a theater that employs people with disabilities (3 that I know of, one of them being a manager) would be a little more understanding. It is ridiculous.

  11. Shannon June 24, 2016 at 7:15 pm #

    I live in Renton WA, this movie theater is the Regal Cinemas Bellevue at the Crossroads Mall. It is only about 20 minutes away from me. KIRO 7 one of our local news stations is reporting where this took place.

    I have gone to this theater before, but will never be going to this theater ever again. The management and the people who complained should all be ashamed of their actions. How dare they ask a family to leave the theater.

    I agree with a earlier post from Amy. I know for a fact that they have teenagers and a manager with disabilities that work at that theater, and the another theater close to me. You would think that the Crossroads Theater would be more understanding, patient, and kind in a situation like this. They should however have great customer service no matter what the situation is. Obviously they are lacking in this department.

    It is a kids movie, let them laugh and have fun. By what the mom said, they where not making a commotion at all. Her son sounds like any other 3 year old child going to a movie. People always say the want more transparency and inclusion in everything they do. Here was a perfect time for the adults to show their own children how to be patient, kind, and understanding to someone who might be different then them. But really isn’t, he is just like any other excited 3 year old watching a movie.

    The parents blew a wonderful teaching moment for their own kids.

  12. Caroline June 26, 2016 at 1:26 pm #

    I’m sorry but I have to agree with the theater. Finding Dory is not just a children’s movie. There are adults who have been waiting 13 years for this sequel and would like to enjoy it. At 7:20 people do not expect to find a 3 year old in the theater. Adults go at this time when little children should be in bed. Those who are paying to see a movie no matter what it is expect to be able yo enjoy it. The manager would not have kicked her out unless he had gotten many complaints and her son was being extremely disruptive. It had nothing to do with her son being autistic. In fact how would those that complained even know he was. In the end he was being disruptive during the movie that caused people to complain and as a result the manager had to act and gave the mother a choice.

    • Herding Cats June 26, 2016 at 2:04 pm #

      That’s where opinions vary. Some think children should be in bed at 7:20. Others believe it’s still a reasonable hour.

      And while yes, there are adults waiting for this movie, it was made as, and advertised as, a children’s movie.

      When Toy Story 3 came out, I was taking my two younger daughters. I was met with a theater chock full of teenagers. At first, I was surprised, then it became really cute to see, b/c these kids grew up with Toy Story. Yes, they were all slightly obnoxious, but good natured. As an adult, I dealt with it all without complaint. The teens actually made it more memorable.

  13. Denise June 27, 2016 at 12:15 pm #
    maybe we should all switch to AMC movie theaters! they seem to care about ALL children!!!

  14. Mouse July 1, 2016 at 5:54 am #

    I’m sorry, but I as a mom I say that unless she stood up before the movie and announced to everyone there that her child is autistic and everyone else who paid the high ticket prices theaters command these days, should be prepared to put up with an uncontrolled child whom she was preparing to allow to “roll(ing) on (a filthy theater) floor”; then she has no right to complain and make demands of everyone else… not to mention a three year old should never have been taken to an evening movie in the first place; autistic or not. A more child friendly matinee would have been a better choice (and at three, a DVD an even better choice!).

    Too many parents with special needs children want to make demands on everyone else while refusing to take responsibility for how unreasonable these demands may be, nor what those demands entail of others. Did this mother even try practicing proper theater behavior with her son beforehand… sit in your seat, not the floor; no running up and down aisles or rolling around filthy theater floors, (try and) use your indoor voice (at a child’s matinee)? After all, this isn’t her living room where anything goes. Just because he’s autistic, doesn’t give her a free pass to allow poor behavior without any ATTEMPT on her part at control, nor become outraged and use this as an excuse to stand up on her soapbox demanding that everyone else abdicate any and all of their own rights and must assume that any out of control child be excused and assumed to be special needs.

    While her son is cute as a button, at age three a lunch time matinee would have been a better choice; especially as a first time experience.

    • Herding Cats July 1, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

      You seem very concerned about the cleanliness (or lack thereof) of the floor.

      Imagine if we put that same concern into the state of humans…

      • Mouse July 2, 2016 at 6:00 am #

        As a teen I worked in a theater, so yes, I know what those floors are like and they are beyond disgusting and no place for a child to be rolling around on.

        And imagine if parents today took into consideration that their non-actions and the actions of their children, may be stripping others of their own rights; whether its the right to attempt to enjoy a movie, or the right to eat a meal in a fairly nice restaurant without unruly children running between and under tables, knocking into wait staff, and yes, rolling on restaurant floors as well. Or are we to assume they’re all special needs and give mom and kid(s) a special pass?

  15. Florida dad July 2, 2016 at 7:50 pm #

    Caroline and the likes can shove it…. Really adults are that concerned for their precious Disney movies…. If you’re are that into worshipping ing Walt them ask yourself “what would Walt do?” Get over it. Inclusion is the only way we can move forward. This is coming from a Dad of one with out disabilities.

    • Mouse July 3, 2016 at 1:22 am #

      Inclusion can often be disruptive for others; such as the 5th grader who would become frustrated in class and throw chairs and desks endangering the teacher and other students; along with my own child. THIS, coming from the mother of a child with severe dyslexia, OCD, and mild physical tourettes.

  16. wasberrypii August 4, 2016 at 9:21 am #

    Oh look Neurotypical Privilege! Neurotypical Privilege Everywhere!


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