The world’s largest movie theater chain giant AMC recently announced that it is adding open captions at 240 U.S. locations. This is a major win for deaf moviegoers and makes theaters more accessible.
Open captions are similar to subtitles. They appear on the screen and can’t be turned off by viewers. In the U.S., theaters have caption devices that patrons have to request. These options include Rear Window Captioning, CaptiView, or caption glasses. But there are often equipment and captioning issues.
“Inclusive programming is core to AMC’s strategy, and we’re proud to lead the theatrical exhibition industry by making some open caption showtimes available at hundreds of our locations nationwide,” said Elizabeth Frank, AMC’s chief content officer and executive vice president of worldwide programming.
“We’re proud to lead the theatrical exhibition industry by making some open caption showtimes available at hundreds of our locations nationwide.”
Fighting for Open Captions
Many deaf people don’t go to the cinema because the lack of access is too frustrating. However, offering open captioned films could be the answer. In the UK, Ellie Parfitt, who blogs as DeafieBlogger, has been fighting for the inclusion of open captioning in cinemas.
“Currently, only 1-3 percent of films are subtitled in cinemas and are usually in unsociable hours when deaf people are at school/work,” she wrote on her blog. “Due to this, deaf people have given up going, hence why cinemas say there’s ‘no demand.’ I’m hoping to work with the cinema industry…to change this on behalf of 11 million people with hearing loss! We want to increase the current provision, raise awareness and bring deaf people back to the cinema. We want to make it a fun, enjoyable, accessible experience for all.”
While the campaign in the UK is still an ongoing battle, across the pond, AMC seems set to make a difference. They state that the times for their open captioned showings will be available from their local theater’s websites, as well as on the AMC app. Showings will be across the board and available not just during afternoons and odd weekday evenings, which is the current standard in the UK and elsewhere. Instead, AMC expects to offer a good mixture of weekdays, weekends and matinee showings. The company expects this to evolve based on customer feedback and demand.
“AMC expects to offer a good mixture of weekdays, weekends and matinee showings.”
Of course, only time will tell whether this is in fact the deaf gain it appears to be. If the showtimes are at unpopular times of the day, this may not be as accessible as it first appears. If showings are only at times which clash with childcare and working hours, this apparent forward move may still in fact have a negative impact on the deaf community.
Whatever happens, the simple fact of open captioning becoming more readily available is a good step forward.
Phonak hEARo, Phil is an actor, writer and journalist who writes in the deaf WellBeing and Lifestyle areas. He lives on the beautiful North Yorkshire coast with his wife Raine and their three children. Phil was diagnosed in 2016 and has moderate to severe Sensorineural hearing loss in both ears and constant tinnitus. He uses Phonak silver Nathos Auto M hearing aids. Member DANC (Disabled Artists Networking Community)
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