I used to be an avid movie buff. I went to the theater once a week at least, and there were times when I knew almost every movie up for an Academy Award. I waited at midnight in a line to see Star Wars Episode 1. My heart broke watching The Horse Whisperer. I watched The Titanic 7 times in the theater going by myself half the time. I laughed with Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets and Al Pacino played a fun devil in Devil’s Advocate. The Fifth Element rocked my world so much I bought the soundtrack. You get the idea.
I watched all these movies from a small town theater in California. Thanks to the SayWhatClub, I knew to look for the ALD symbol (above). When our little town built and opened a theater, I recognized the sign right off. I asked the ticket person what they had available. They had infra-red headphones, all I had to do was turn over my drivers license while I borrowed them. They were big padded headphones which covered the entire ear, had volume control and since my hearing loss wasn’t that bad yet, I understood about 90% of the movie with them on. It didn’t take long before the ticket people recognized me and had the headphones ready by the time I came up in the line.
Then I moved to a bigger town in Arizona, about 40,000 people and had three theaters. One theater had no ALD’s available. One theater said they had them and gave me a one sided headphone, light weight and the kind that sits just over the ear canal. I held it by two fingers with my face wrinkled up saying, “This is it?” I tried them out because it was all they had and I still wanted my movies. They didn’t work at all. The third theater had the same kind of headphone and I told them no thanks.
Without good earphones, my comprehension of dialogue in movies fell to somewhere around 60%. I struggled along with movies for about 6 months and the frustration of missing the key words, the punch line and so on, I stopped going. I waited for movies to come out on video so I would have captions. Within a year, I was out of the loop with movies. It wasn’t the same as watching them on the big screen. Over the next 8 years, I didn’t even know the actors anymore. I haven’t watched the Academy Awards since the late 90’s.
When I moved to Salt Lake City three years ago, I found out we had a theater with rear-view captioning. Excited at the possibility of movies in my life again, I went. The first movie I saw there, Avatar (not in 3-D), had me happy I lived in a big city. I kept an eye on their captioned movies and it didn’t long to figure out they rarely played first run or popular movies. In a theater of about 20 screen rooms, only one had rear-view captioning. Most of what they showed there were the movies that were bombing or children movies. I lost interest.
Recently the CaptiView grabbed my attention when our deaf and hard of hearing center had a festival in September. The Utah-CAN had a table with information on the CaptiView and even had one there to show people how it worked. They explained as theaters switched to a digital format, the cup holder device would be available. I vaguely heard about it in the past but seeing it made it more real. I found out the Cinemark theater down the street from me had it at their place. I couldn’t wait to try it out.
My first visit there I asked the ticket lady which movies were in digital format. She said they wall were. I stood there and looked over the list of movies playing, thrilled to have a choice again. My hard of hearing friend and I picked “The Big Year.” There were no captions during the previews but as soon as the movie started up, our CaptiViews lit up and started showing the dialogue. We let out little squeals of delight, clapped our hands quietly and then watched the movie. It was sensational!
It worked so well the first time, I went back and tried watching The Rum Diary on it’s opening weekend. Nothing, no captions except to say that it was ready. I went out to inform the people in the ticket office. They sent a manager to me who said to wait there and she would be right back. I paced the hallway for 10 minutes with my CaptiView in hand when another manager giving an interview at one end of the hallway came to me and asked me what the problem was and I told him too. He said he would be right back. I paced the hallway for another 10 minutes when I saw captions light up. I missed twenty minutes but figured I could catch up.
Not. It was the wrong captions and didn’t match the movie. Maybe the device searched automatically after so much time until it found captions? Near tears with frustration, my boyfriend and I left the theater room. A guy standing just outside the doors handed me two free passes and they gave me my money back. It sort of made up for the sheer irritation of it all but I would have rather have seen the movie with captions.
Yesterday I went back again, with my free passes, to see the movie, Tower Heist. Surely, it would work all right since it wasn’t a brand new movie. We sat there I waited with tension through the previews. The movie started and nothing again! Damn it! I went out right away to inform management. They said they would be right back, har har. I paced a different hallway for 5 minutes checking my CaptiView every minute and nothing. I resumed pacing and the manager snuck up behind me and tapped my shoulder making me jump. She said, “It shows it working fine up there.” I looked at mine and it was displaying the captions now. I let her know I was tired of missing the beginning of movies and she patted my shoulder as I went into the theater again. The must have pushed the reset button I read about in another review of the device.
My boyfriend told me I didn’t miss much as I sat down adjusted the captions to my liking. I was not in the best frame of mind but eventually I settled in and started to laughing with rest of the people in there. Alan Alda makes a great bad guy.
I like the idea of having movies back but it’s not without irritation. How many more movies will I miss the beginning to in this process? From now on I will go earlier (my boyfriend is contantly late) and ask them as soon as I buy my ticket to please push the button before hand. Maybe the more they see me, the better they will get at the process. As I walk in they will think, “Oh no, here she comes again,” but after awhile it should all fall into routine and maybe they will like my patronage.
All Cinemarks are switching to digital format (I believe) and will have CaptiViews available. Other theater companies will follow so I encourage you all to go forth and watch a movie. Go to the theater, inquire and let’s make our presence known. John Waldo has done a lot of advocating for us so don’t let these new opportunities go by, claim them. I’m going to be a thorn in their side until they get it right.