Where are the movie captions?
This is a question I have asked for the past 10 years since I became passionate about advocating for movie theater captioning. Since the Covid-19 pandemic, most regular movie-goers have stayed home and watched films from their televisions or mobile devices which allows for various captioning possibilities. But some prefer the in-person movie theater experience as long as Covid sanitation and safety protocols are in place. It is no secret that movies shown in theaters have not always been accessible to the deaf or hard of hearing.
That is why I was thrilled to recently learn that the world’s largest movie theater chain, AMC Theatres, announced in mid-October that they were adding open captioning to certain showings in 240 of its locations — in more than 100 U.S. markets.
What is the difference between open captioning and closed captioning?
Open captions are always visible or “burnt” unto the video or stream. Closed captions can be turned on or off, while at movie theaters these captions are only viewable through a captioning device, the most common being the CaptiView device.
Last weekend, my family went to our nearest AMC Theatre location to see the new James Bond film. The film was advertised as being closed captioned, so we anticipated that the film would be fully accessible to me. We picked up a CaptiView device from the guest services desk before the movie started. I had used the CaptiView many times with few issues, and the device features a tiny screen, flexible support arm, and base that fits inside a theater cupholder. This time, we had to return to guest services two times to exchange the devices because no captions appeared on the screens when the movie started. The third CaptiView device worked fine until halfway through the movie when the “low battery” alert appeared on the screen.
What a disappointing experience.
It is time for movie theaters to get captioning right.
A number of individuals in the deaf and hearing loss communities have advocated for more films with open captions because they are viewable to all. The Hearing Loss Association of America recently partnered with the producers of the award-winning hearing loss documentary “We Hear You” to stream this open captioned film. The Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA) has provided a list of important laws about captioning.
Here is how you can help.
Contact any of these organizations to offer your support of more and better movie captioning:
- Captioning Activism and Community
- Hearing Loss Association of America (HLAA)
- Association of Late Deafened Adults (ALDA)
If you know of additional ways to advocate for movie captioning, please share them in the comments.