Sunday, January 16, 2000

Open captioning has come

Enquirer contributor

        Today, Betty Timon is taking her grandchildren to the movies. The whole clan is headed for Toy Story 2 at the Springdale Showcase Cinema, and no one is as excited as the grandmother that they are able to go.

        Although the Covington woman loves movies and loves her six grandchildren (who range in age from four to 16), Toy Story 2 marks the first time she has ever been able to share the activity with them.

  Toy Story 2 with open captioning will air at Springdale Showcase Cinema at 5:25 p.m. today.
  For listings of future films including captioning, point your Web browser to or
        Because she is deaf, Mrs. Timon says, she has only been able to watch and “fake it” at movies in the past. This time, she'll be able to laugh and cry on cue with everyone else in the theater.

        Beginning last February, Boston-based National Amusements has made certain first-run movies available with open captioning in 20 theaters covering 15 states. Like its closed caption next-of-kin, open captioning displays the text of spoken dialogue at the bottom of the screen, as well as symbols indicating the ring of a phone or honk of a car horn, enabling deaf movie-goers to participate fully in the entertainment experience.

        The good news is that Tripod, the film production company responsible for the open captioned films, is making the effort to get movies into communities for deaf people to enjoy (at the same prices and times) as their hearing friends and neighbors. The bad news, says Betty Timon, is that show time information is so difficult to track down.

        Although a representative at National Amusements' Boston headquarters confirmed that Toy Story 2 with open captioning would indeed be playing this weekend at the Springdale location, representatives at the theater were unaware of it early last week. Betty Timon said that she happens to be aware of the dates only because she has become an avid Web surfer, and discovered that listings for all participating cities are posted on the Tripod Web site.

        “It's a shame,” Mrs. Timon said. “Now that we can finally go to a theater with everybody else to see a movie, rather than wait for it to come out on video with closed captioning, there should be more of an effort made to spread the word. ...There should be a billboard or something that will visually get the word out to deaf and hard of hearing people.”

In Tristate, only Springdale
        Since launching the program last February, Tripod has released one or two movies a month with open captioning. Other titles that have run at Springdale recently have included For Love or For Game, Bowfinger, and The Thomas Crown Affair. All 20 designated National Amusements theaters run each open captioned movie as it becomes available.

        Betty Timon has kept a close watch of titles offered, and said that Toy Story 2 is the first one that would be appropriate for all her grandchildren. The Springdale theater, she said, is the only theater offering captioned movies in the Tristate. If she were to attend movies with captioning in her own state, she would have to travel to Lexington or Louisville.

Need more publicity
        Not all deaf people are Web surfers, and not all scrutinize movie listings week after week in the hope that, maybe once in a while, they'll see a listing with captioning included. In other words, National Amusements is doing a good thing — but a good thing could be made better with a little more publicity.

        Cincinnati writer Deborah Kendrick is a nationally recognized advocate for people with disabilities. Write her at Cincinnati Enquirer, Tempo, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202.


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