Movie Theaters - Open Captions (Subtitles) Are for Everyone!

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Open captions are for everyone!


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What are open captions? Open captions are on-screen text dialogue. Some people with hearing loss do like closed captioning equipment, but given a choice, the majority will choose open captions. Open captions let deaf and hard of hearing people enjoy movies the same way as hearing people do. Closed caption equipment is often uncomfortable, may cause eyestrain, malfunctions, batteries die, may be unsanitary, or simply can not be used by some people due to vision impairment. (Would you want to wear or use that?) As a result, most users of captions prefer open captions. 

Some theaters are very willing to show open captioned movies. Unfortunately,  many others are not willing to offer open captions despite pleas from people with hearing loss. When open captioned movies are requested, requests may be denied or only poorly attended time slots are offered.

As an example, the Avengers: Endgame movie.  Several requests from open caption organizers for OC screenings of this movie on opening weekend were denied. The same thing will probably happen with the next Star Wars movie. 


Captions also benefit:

  • Kids learning to read
  • People with autism
  • People learning English as a second language
  • People with auditory processing disorder
  • Some people with attention deficit disorder
  • Some people with down syndrome and auditory processing issues
  • People starting to lose their hearing
  • Veterans with battle-acquired hearing loss
  • People who have difficulty understanding dialogue when there is noise, mumbling, or accents

Plus, many young adults today grew up exposed to closed captions (mom and dad always turned the closed captions on the TV) so now they are in the habit of using captions or actually prefer captions! And many people like watching streamed movies with the subtitles on. 

We call on movie theaters to give open captions a real chance with better dates and time slots. Make open captions a standard option alongside closed captions. Most importantly, we call on movie theaters to stop looking at open captions as being only for deaf and hard of hearing people, and start looking at open captions as being for everyone!

UPDATE: On July 15, the DC website DCIst published an article about the open caption pilot in DC. In this article, a representative of the National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) says "“one of the reasons the equipment doesn’t work is because it doesn’t get used, which indicates there isn’t much of a market." This statement is essentially an admission that closed captioning equipment does not work. 

UPDATE: Starting July 12, 2019, NATO unilaterally imposed a pilot in Washington, DC in an attempt to delay legislation to require open captioned movies in the District of Columbia. NATO has directed theaters in Washington, DC to temporarily increase open captioned movie offerings. It is expected that NATO will use this data to push back against the legislation. 

UPDATE: On June 26, 2019 Hawaii Governor Ige signed a bill to establish a law in Hawaii permanently requiring open captions in movie theaters. A signed and captioned news report is here on Facebook: and the YouTube version is here: (at 10:36 in the video)

Also, go to this link to see the Open Caption Movies for All T-shirt and instructions for getting one:


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