Dedicated Open Caption screenings at Hoyts

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Many deaf and hard of hearing people rely on captions when watching movies or other videos. Captions also benefit those with sensory processing disorders, foreign language speakers, and even children learning to read. While most television stations and streaming services are required by legislation to provide closed captions, accessibility for those who rely on captions is woefully inadequate at cinemas.  

Some cinemas provide closed caption (CC) devices such as ‘CaptiView’, which is a large bulky device that you place in your drink holder which displays captions only you can see. However, these are very infrequently available. They also present a major issue of divided attention – you spend most of the movie watching the CaptiView rather than what’s actually happening on screen. 

And that’s assuming the device is working, which it often isn’t. And even when it is, up to half of the dialogue is usually missing.

It’s simply not good enough. We want open caption screenings in cinemas, where the closed captions are displayed on the big screen, just like on televisions or streaming services.

Some cinemas host dedicated open caption screenings, such as Village Cinemas and some smaller independent cinemas. We gladly welcome and appreciate this, although their availability and frequency can be improved.

One of the largest cinema chains in Australia, Hoyts, seems to have no plans to do the same and are refusing to respond to requests for comments.

It appears that Hoyts is afraid Open Captions screenings would scare off patrons from attending films. We believe this is patently absurd, given their popularity overseas, the popularisation of animated gifs with captions, and the widespread habit of watching muted videos on your phone in public. Captions and subtitles are ubiquitous today, and are widely accessed even by people without hearing loss.

This is also not to suggest we demand every cinema screening be an open caption screening. But we do demand that at the very least, there are dedicated screenings. For people who do not like captions, they are still able to watch the overwhelming majority of screenings that do not have them. 

What we want is screenings that we can also access.

There are approximately 3.6 million Australians with hearing loss - 14.5% of the population. That’s just about one in every seven Australians. This is not some niche, rare condition - despite what Hoyts may think.

We want to show that open caption screenings are not to be feared, and that even people without accessibility needs would welcome open caption screenings.

Please also complete this survey about Open Captions at cinemas, which we can present to Hoyts.