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And the Winner for Best (Captioned) Picture is…

And the Winner for Best (Captioned) Picture is…

With Oscar Season nearly upon us, many of the nation’s movie fans make their way to theaters to see the nominated films before the awards are presented. For those with hearing loss, a trip to the movies has long been an exercise in frustration. Finding a theater that offers captions, let alone the actual film you want to see with captions, has been challenging.

Fortunately things are changing, and the answer no longer has to be “wait until it comes out on DVD or Netflix.” While both offer “easy on” captions, neither matches the experience of seeing your favorite films on the big screen.

During all the turkey consumption last November, you may have missed a recent rule finalized by then Attorney General Lynch. The rule, which went in to effect on December 2nd, requires theaters offering movies using digital technology to proactively offer captioned film options for people with hearing loss. Fortunately, this includes nearly 97% of the nation’s theaters.

What do these captions look like? Well, if you’ve been to an open captioned film in the past ­— one which displays captions of both the dialog and sound effects (such as a door slamming or a phone ringing) — the new technology is similar, but decidedly different.

Theaters have long sought a balance between accommodating people with hearing loss, and avoiding the distraction of captions for their other patrons. The earliest attempt was a technology called Rear Window Captioning, sponsored by WGBH in Boston. This projected the captions on the back of the theater, reversed, and provided a mirror-like device at each seat which the patron could position so the captions would be reflected on the device.

It was a great idea but wrought with challenges, not the least of which was broken equipment and a limited number of theaters that had installed the expensive solution.

Today, digital films enable captions to be projected using infrared light, generally invisible, except for hard of hearing patrons through a set of special glasses each theater has on hand. When it’s working, the technology seemingly strikes the right balance, giving hard of hearing viewers a rich, captioned experience, while providing other patrons a caption-free show.

As with any technology, this one does have its growing pains. Many complain that the glasses are bulky and uncomfortable to wear through an entire feature length film. By far the biggest complaint is that theaters frequently forget to charge the glasses, leaving movie fans back where they started. While some theater owners may seem indifferent to the frustration, many more recognize the huge opportunity to reach new viewers in an environment where box office proceeds are at their lowest in decades.

Finding films offering captions has gotten a lot easier. While standalone sites still exist (like Caption Fish, for example), the biggest listings include details on listening devices. Fandango, for example, includes an “Amenities” link for each theater. Just look for “listening devices” included in the amenities list. It might be a good idea too to call ahead to make sure someone puts the glasses on a charger. Let us know how it goes!

What has been your experience with using captions at the movies? Have any Oscar predictions? Leave a post on our Facebook page.


If you like captions on your movies, you’ll LOVE captions on your phone calls. Check out the many free captioned telephone options available to New Jersey residents. Visit:

Posted by NJAdmin on Feb 13, 2017