When Lipreading Mom wants to see a captioned movie, I type in the URL Captionfish.com. The site allows me to search for movie theaters by zip code that provide captioned first-run films on any day of the week. It lists dates, times, and locations offering these movies. Nice and convenient, huh?
In my ongoing series of blog posts about captioning, I asked Nanci Linke-Ellis, one of Captionfish’s partners, to provide her company’s viewpoint on technological choices offered for captioned films. From open captions to personal captioning options (like cupholder devices or captioning glasses), theaters provide a wide range of ways for people with hearing loss to enjoy movies. But what does the future hold?
A Few Words from Captionfish
Captionfish considers itself technologically neutral when it comes to movie captioning. One of our partners, Nanci Linke-Ellis, started the open-captioned program in 1993 with great success. But as people clamored for more films, showtimes and locations, it became virtually impossible for theatre owners to keep up the demand for 35mm prints and had to wait for digital solutions, which were 10 years late to the scene.
Deaf/hard of hearing (DHH) audiences were not happy about having to wait 20 years to see some progress beyond limited open captioned screenings and Rear Window Caption-equipped auditoriums. Now that digital has arrived, there are three different types of captioning systems available in theatres. Many patrons have the option to choose which theatre to attend based on their preferred technology. Whether it be the Sony entertainment access glasses, CaptiView or USL, inc, both cup-holder devices, there is something for everyone. The Captionfish website lists the technology used in each theater for a patron’s information. But it also provides captioned trailers so you can decide if you want to see any given movie.
Patrons must remember that this is first generation technology (think pagers in the early 90’s) and it will improve over time as more people use the equipment. Our challenge is getting more people to know it exists. Nearly 50 percent of all theatres in North America have captioning\assistive listening devices (ALDs)\Described Video access available. Not all theatres promote it with signage or in advertising so many people don’t know to look for it. This is one of our priorities for the next several years.
In the very early stages of the captioned film program, Universal, Paramount and New Line Cinema (now owned by Warner Brothers) were the most enthusiastic. Again, in 2013, every major (large) distributor now provides caption files on the digital hard drive from which theatres project films. Regal Entertainment was the first to order across-the-board Sony Entertainment Access Glasses in all of their venues. They are still in the process of being installed and deployed, but they are getting there. It takes time to get it right, working properly with a well-trained staff in place.
Our biggest priorities are getting theatres to advertise on Captionfish.com and send patrons to our site to find showtimes, etc. Signage in theatres saying they have the equipment available is critical. We are also looking to the future where there will be a captioned trailer to “test” the captions at least 10 minutes prior to the start of the feature film, a much more complex problem then it appears on the surface.
Another future project of ours is to get a group of engineers together and have them look at all of our neck loops, direct connect cables, etc. and find a way for us to use whatever assistive technology we might have for our hearing aids or cochlear implants. It’s commonly known as “plug and play.”
Captionfish is not perfect. We are a company of three people for whom this is a labor of love. We appreciate feedback, being notified of theatres not on our list, problems with equipment that we might be able to bring to a theatre’s attention. 39,000 screens means a LOT of people are involved in the process.
Next, of course, is making sure that any new technology platform that is developed, resolves accessible issues before it’s manufactured, just like they do for the blind\low vision and wheelchair patrons. We are no different. We love our movies and other forms of entertainment. It just happens that for many patrons, our disability is invisible.40 million people are affected by some form of hearing loss. That’s a lot of movie tickets that could be sold. They need to be reminded of this all the time.
Read More in the Lipreading Mom Captioning Series
Share Your Comments
Do you have a question or comment relating to this article? Post your thoughts below.