AMC Entertainment, the largest movie theater chain in the world, will offer open captioning at 240 locations in the United States. described as “a real step forward for people with hearing impairments or for those with English as their second language.”
Movie theaters provide closed captioning through devices that some customers describe as inconvenient and prone to crashes. However, open subtitles are displayed on the screen in the same way as subtitles; everyone in the theater sees the same titles on the same screen.
Advocates of the deaf and hard of hearing have long sought better subtitling, but theater owners are concerned that deaf people simply don’t like watching subtitles in films.
“In some cases, adding open captioning to the screen lowers movie ticket sales,” said John Fithian, president and CEO of the National Theater Owners Association, although he noted that the evidence was mostly anecdotal. He said the industry, whose businesses have been hit by the pandemic, is studying the relationship between open captioning and ticketing.
Christian Vogler, a professor at Gallaudet University, a school in Washington DC that serves the deaf, said in an email: “Opponents of open captioning have often argued that the wider listening audience would rebel against them or that this would be a losing business proposition. for theaters “. He praised the AMC move that was announced last week, saying, “The fact that a major national network has changed its mind is significant and may even open floodgates for others to follow suit.”
Other major movie theater chains, including Regal Cinemas and Cinemark, did not respond to messages asking for comment, and AMC did not say what influenced the company’s decision.
But Fithian, whose group represents both large chains and small theater owners, said the industry has been focusing more on open captioning lately, as advocates for the deaf and hard of hearing have raised concerns about captioning devices.
“AMC was the first to publicly disclose what they are releasing,” he said. “But this is all part of an industry-wide effort to improve access by making sure our captioning systems work, and by increasing the number of volunteer open captioning shows across the country.”
The announcement has given some hope to the deaf and hard of hearing.
Megan Albertz of South Florida was at the brewery Saturday, playing a subtitled version of Robin Williams’ 1995 film Jumanji in the background.
Ms. Albertz, 29, was born with a profound hearing loss and realized, having previously seen Jumanji without subtitles, that she initially misunderstood the characters’ scenes or dialogues.
Oct 20, 2021 8:48 AM ET
“Over the years, I have revisited films that I have watched in theaters on various streaming platforms with subtitles, and it constantly amazes me how many words or lines I have missed,” she said in an email.
She called the AMC solution a step towards “accessibility for all,” but wanted the company and the industry to continue to expand the use of open captioning.
In recent years, due to litigation, legislation, and pressure from disability rights advocates, the theater industry has made closed captioning equipment more affordable. This equipment includes Sony glasses used by Regal Cinemas and a Captiview device that attaches to the cup holder of a theater chair and displays signatures.
“These devices have fans,” said Dr. Vogler of Gallaudet University, “but they are also widely despised because of their tendency to shutdown, misconfiguration, battery drain, and poor usability and ergonomics compared to.” Open subtitles.
AMC said that only a select few, clearly designated sessions will have open captioning, and that the “vast majority” of their sessions will continue to be offered closed captioning.
CEO of the company Adam Aron: noted that the expansion came in time for Marvel’s Eternals, due out November 5, and features Lauren Ridloff, a born deaf actress who plays the first deaf superhero in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
In an August interview with The New York Times, Ms. Ridloff said that most cinemas are out of reach for the deaf, who are often considered secondary.
“You have to use a dedicated subtitle device to watch subtitles in the theater, and that’s a headache because most of the time the devices don’t work,” she said. “Then you have to go back to the front desk and find someone to help, and by the time they realize this isn’t working – that it won’t have subtitles at all – the movie is half finished.”