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

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Michelle Martin
Michelle Martin signed this petition

Open captions are for everyone!


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(Video courtesy of Alan Schussel, who says hearing people will understand from the audio how bad the captions are. Schussel said the captions were so bad he could not enjoy the movie.)

(Updates and Links to all Open Caption petitions globally at bottom. See Update #1 if you would like to purchase an Open Caption Movies for All T-shirt.)

What are open captions? Open captions are on-screen text dialogue. Open captions let deaf and hard of hearing people enjoy movies the same way as hearing people do. Some people with hearing loss do like closed captioning equipment, but given a choice, the majority will choose open captions because closed caption equipment has multiple issues:

  1. often uncomfortable
  2. may cause eyestrain
  3. dizziness
  4. headaches
  5. malfunctions
  6. drop lines
  7. show the wrong captions
  8. may repeat lines
  9. batteries die
  10. may be unsanitary
  11. can not be used by some people due to vision impairment.

As a result of the above issues, most users of captions prefer open captions. 

Some theaters are very willing to show open captioned movies. Unfortunately,  many theaters 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 many others, as discussed in the research article "Video Captions Are for Everyone:"

  • Kids learning to read
  • People with autism
  • People learning English as a second language
  • People with auditory processing disorder or sensitivity to noise
  • Some people with attention deficit disorder
  • Some people with down syndrome, learning disabiities, or 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 and TV shows 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!


Open Caption Petitions are Around the Globe! Even if you don't live in those countries you can still sign their petitions because what if you visited those countries and wanted to see a movie there?

  1. Marvel Studios - Open Caption the Eternals for Everyone!
  2. Australia: OC at Hoyts
  3. UK: More Reasonable OC times
  4. Canada: OC in Canadian Theatres


UPDATE 5: On July 24, a story was published about a deaf couple who had a negative experience with closed caption equipment at a movie theater. This story sparked much discussion on the internet.

UPDATE 4: 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 3: 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 2: 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)

UPDATE 1:  Open Caption Movies for All T shirt!