Monday, May 5, 2008

Movie Captions

Before movies had sound, they had captions. Whatever dialogue silent movie stars like Rudolf Valentino, Lillian Gish, and Charlie Chaplin might have uttered, the words had to be flashed across the screen. Who cares today? You would if you had a hearing impairment, statistically 10-percent of the population, approximately one million Georgians, including me. I became deaf two years ago, 100 percent in both ears, medically quantified as “profound hearing loss,” a snort of a euphemism if ever there was one. I did not lose my lifelong love of movies. Thankfully, modern technology has made captioning available as the standard for television broadcasting, and virtually all new DVD’s for rent at Blockbusters and Hollywood Video stores are captioned. Lagging far behind are the shopping mall movie houses. Some of the large chains offer just enough captioned presentations to hold off lawsuits under the Americans with Disabilities Act. Nonetheless, when I have an urge to sit in a dark theatre and munch popcorn, I can not just head over to the nearest megaplex and take my pick of the current attractions showing morning, noon, and night. Only a very few will have been captioned, and of the available captioned movies, the next scheduled showing may well be a week from Tuesday at 3:45.

There are different types of captions. Closed Captions are printed on a dark strip across the screen, as is common on television. Open Captions are just writing superimposed over whatever is being depicted on the screen. Reading Open Captions ranges in difficulty from not always easy to completely lost, depending on background contrast. A third caption system is a sort of hologram projected simultaneously with the film. This Rear Window Captioning requires a special tower-like device provided by the theatre, placed in the cup-holder of your seat armrest, and adjustable to viewing height. You watch the movie and the reflected, rear-projection captions simultaneously, like driving down the road without taking your eyes off the rear view mirror.

I have attended captioned movies in Atlanta at Atlantic Station, North DeKalb Mall, I-85 Access Rd, and on Cobb Parkway near Cumberland Mall. Here are some links to captioned movie listings with showtimes and locations of various chains:


Of course, all over America, foreign language films are always shown with captions, called English sub-titles. If they are shown at all. If foreign films are your cup of tea. I am lucky. I have liked foreign films for a long time. My childhood buddy Luther was a year ahead of me in school and more than a year older. When he turned 16, he got a job as an usher at the Art Theatre in Atlanta, on the corner of Peachtree and Thirteenth, a block from where I lived. Luther would sneek me in through the FIRE door to see movies starring Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren, whose natural talents were as hot as it got on the cusp of the 1950's becoming the 1960's without any special advance warning. Luther and I had always enjoyed what you might call minimal adult supervision, from our trail-blazing single mothers or anybody else's Aunt Polly. One thing leads to another. Eventually, we’re watching films by Frederico Fellini and Ingmar Bergman.

Lefont Sandy Springs, on Roswell Rd., and Midtown Art Cinema, on Monroe Drive, across the street from Grady Stadium, regularly feature foreign language films with English sub-titles.

E-Peachy News contains a variety of useful information of interest for the Deaf, Hard of Hearing & Hearing Impaired. Their feature Fomdi provides a great look-up by your zip code to find captioned movies.

Insight Cinema, once a source for captioned movie listings nationwide, has closed down as of the end of April, because it ran out of money. I am trying to figure out how to use my blog for a convenient place to find captioned movies. This is a first attempt.

Copyright 2008 by William C. Cotter

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