Movie theaters are adopting new technology to become an option for the deaf and hard-of-hearing population, promoting inclusivity. Read more!
Just when older adults older have adapted to streaming, and the future of movie-going appeared uncertain due to platforms like Netflix and Apple TV, theaters survived disruption.
The resurgence of hot ticket sales shows us that movie theatres are back, and people are loving it! However, returning to the glory days of cinema is one thing, but ensuring a lasting and inclusive experience is another.
Here, you’ll find a range of available assistive listening technology for movie theaters (plus our two cents!) and the best cinemas equipped to support your movie-going experience.
The Americans with Disabilities Act requires movie theaters to provide people who are deaf or hard of hearing assistive listening devices that allow them to enjoy a film.
Although prompted by legal obligations, we've witnessed progress in awareness and proactive measures to ensure everyone can enjoy movies to the fullest.
While some movie theaters meet the minimum requirements, others have taken it further. There’s still a way to go, but we believe in the power of advocacy, and together, we can drive advancements further to enhance our community's movie-going experiences.
With open captions, the text appears on the screen for everyone to see, similar to subtitles. This is the most convenient, seamless, and universally accessible technology. However, only a few theaters offer open captions screenings.
Most theaters offer open captions viewings for large groups of people who request in advance, and most foreign films screened in the US are subtitled in English.
With high-end surround sound systems and IMAX experiences, movie theaters audio ranges from 74 to 104 decibels, which is louder than a normal conversation (60–70 decibels). So, people using hearing aids due to hearing loss, might not need additional assistive listening devices for theaters.
This assistive hearing technology device transmits captions via a personal device, shifting the view from the big screen to the small display on the armrest. From limited availability to missing out on music or sound effects to running out of battery, these devices have their downside.
Personal FM systems are compatible with hearing aids and cochlear implants using a neck loop or direct audio input. They help reduce background noise, improve clarity and decrease listening fatigue. However, they often require a staff member to assist with the setup, and have issues with cleanliness, battery life, or technical malfunctions. Not fun.
This assistive listening device for theaters transmits sound directly to hearing aids or cochlear implants equipped with telecoils (T-coils). However, the sound quality can vary depending on the theaters setup and the condition of the equipment. Also, induction loops typically have a limited range, meaning users must sit within a specific area to use the system.
Hearing aids are an excellent option for those with hearing loss to filter out background noise and experience better, clearer sound at the movies.
This personal and assistive listening app connects headphones to smartphones for improved audio quality. However, the system relies on smartphone compatibility, battery life, and internet connectivity.
Infrared (IR) assistive listening technology uses infrared light to transmit audio signals to receivers worn by users. The equipment tends to be bulky and uncomfortable to wear for an extended period. Additionally, it demands a clear line of sight to the transmitter for a reliable signal. It can be problematic if you have specific seating preferences or someone obstructs your line of sight during the movie.
AMC theaters have made great strides in ensuring that assistive technology is available at most locations. They offer:
Regal Cinemas offer assistive listening devices for theaters, such as:
Available technologies are listed online below the screening times of each movie, and groups of ten or more can request an open captioned showing in advance.
Landmark Theaters provides assistive listening devices for theaters, such as:
As theaters continue to captivate moviegoers, including those who are deaf or hard of hearing, assistive listening devices are advancing to enable everyone to enjoy the experience. And as more theater chains continue to embrace and readily make assistive listening technologies available, more people can come together to experience movie theater entertainment.
However, one solution stands out as the most practical and universally agreeable: open captions. Unlike other assistive listening technologies requiring specialized equipment or limitations, open captions provide a seamless experience for all viewers without additional devices.