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Studio Movie Grill Makes The World A Better Place

Catherine loves going to the movies and we love watching them together as a family. Years ago, we discovered that Studio Movie Grill (“SMG”) offers Special Needs Screenings and we were ecstatic. Not only do they have these sensory-friendly screenings, they have so many other amazing outreach programs that they had to be a Profiles of C.A.R.E. feature. Read on to learn how they’re enriching the lives of millions of families.  


Lynne McQuaker has been with Studio Movie Grill creating and executing their community outreach programs for over 15 years. She was integral in helping to establish their legacy Special Needs Screenings that began in 2003.

“We had a GM who was raising two children with special needs and our Founder/CEO, Brian Schultz, got into a conversation with him and asked the last movie he went to see with his family. The GM said he hadn’t been to a movie with his family because he and his wife were concerned that their children would disturb others.  It was a lightbulb moment. We could do something important to help all families raising special needs children.”

And, from that kernel of a conversation, the Special Needs Screenings program was born. It started off small, with a few showings here and there. But, as the program grew, Lynne would conduct an outreach trip with each new location or new city in which SMG found a non-profit partner serving special needs families to help get the word out and build awareness. One of the most important aspects of the program is that screenings are offered free to children with special needs and their siblings, which means everyone can afford to come together….as a family.

Today, the sensory-friendly screenings are in 32 theaters in ten states. The movies are shown with the lights up, the sound down and the children are free to move around and talk and dance in the aisles, if the mood strikes.

(courtesy of Studio Movie Grill)

As SMG’s reputation for positive community outreach grew, more opportunities presented themselves.

“About seven or eight years ago, we had a chef in our Chicago location who reached out and said, ‘I’m raising a son with special needs and I’d really love the kitchen to be a part of this outreach.’ Another lightbulb moment. We identified a local non-profit beneficiary serving special needs families in every city and 5% of the proceeds from certain specially-marked menu items goes directly to that non-profit. To date, SMG is proud to have donated over a million dollars to the Chefs for Children program.”

 Studio Movie Grill Makes The World A Better Place (courtesy of Studio Movie Grill)

“In a continuing effort to live our mission to open hearts and minds, one story at a time, last summer, SMG launched a groundbreaking loyalty program – SMG Access®.  It is the only theater loyalty program that rewards guests while giving movies and meals to underserved community members. Every time a guest purchases a movie ticket at SMG, they earn points in the loyalty program and, when they earn a reward, they also help SMG donate more movies and meals to deserving organizations in their community. To date this program has served over 12,000.”  

Movies+Meals events focus on underserved community members who otherwise may not have the ability to enjoy a meal and see a movie that could impact their lives.

While SMG primarily shows movies for entertainment, they also use some films to teach.

 Studio Movie Grill Makes The World A Better Place (courtesy of Studio Movie Grill)

“We’ve hosted social and emotional learning Movies+Meals screenings focused on empathy and kindness for movies such as Wonder for over 14,000 children, as well as nationwide screenings of The Hate You Give.  We felt the movie would have a major impact on so many kids reading the book in school, especially those who’d perhaps experienced something similar. We partnered to offer a day of dialogue with a strategist out of New York and had teachers and kids come to their local SMG in all our cities to see the movie, then connect them via social media to discuss the film.”

Studio Movie Grill seems to have an endless list of community outreach programs and Lynne’s enthusiasm and love for her work is evident.

“To me this outreach work is a blessing and a joy, and when we see families and young people leave SMG and they’ve had a great time, it makes a huge impact on us all.  We have a lot of team members who are raising children with special needs and we know it means a great deal to them, too. These are programs we deeply care about. They’re purpose-driven and impactful.  Studio Movie Grill is a conscious business with a purpose and a mission:  opening hearts and minds, one story at a time.™.”

Discover more of SMG’s outreach programs here! story/outreach

Studio Movie Grill is offering our readers a chance to win 4 tickets for the parents/caregivers in your family. Leave a comment below to be entered into the drawing! The deadline to enter is Thursday, June 6th, 11:59 PM CDT.

— Written by Tamara Devers


  1. Judy Carter Davis says:

    Lillian another lovely story regarding some of the needs of the special needs. Such a happy place for young Catherine to “hang”. Well done and hats off to the SMG staff for their thoughtfulness!

  2. iI am not sure if it’s a good idea but.. I have a father who is in memory care with dementia at age 91 He personally is almost deaf and will not likely benefit from a program of this kind but there have been many residents who hear well and can function out and about and others in general nursing homes without much family support due to costs of their care that can’t attend movies
    Just a thought

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