The Joy of Open Captions at the Movies!

I haven’t been to the movies in a movie theater for more than two years. At first the pandemic scared me away, but I continued to stay away because it was much easier to watch things at home with captions enabled than to battle the captioning devices at the movie theaters. While very helpful when they work, they sometimes don’t, leaving patrons with hearing loss disappointed and unable to enjoy the film they just paid to watch.

But this was different. Top Gun: Maverick, the sequel to one of my all time favorite movies Top Gun, was playing in theaters and NOT yet online. My husband and I wanted to see it. So much so, that we watched the original movie the night before to prepare!

Sunday afternoon, I opened my favorite movie ticket app to buy tickets and to my surprise and delight, there was a 2pm showing at my local AMC theater—with open captions! “Wow!” I said aloud with anticipation! “This is going to be fun!”

Open caption at the movies!

What Are Open Captions?

Captions come in two basic types: open and closed. Closed Captions are the most common kind of captions, used by major broadcasters and video streaming services. They can be turned on or off by the user and usually require decoding devices (like the CaptiView systems that are often found at movie theaters) to access them.

Open captions appear directly on the video making them visible to all viewers without the use of a decoder device.

Open Captioned Movies Make All the Difference

The experience of an open captioned movie is like no other. I was able to enjoy the action sequences on the big screen and I didn’t miss one word of dialogue. Rather than moving my eyes back and forth from the screen to the captioning device, I just watched the movie. My husband loved it too. He is used to watching things with captions, but he never complains, “Everyone misses some of the dialogue sometimes,” he says.

Not surprising for a rainy Sunday, the theater was crowded. There were families with children, older adults, middle-aged adults, young couples. Not one person seemed bothered by the captions.

Like many people with hearing loss, I am sensitive to loud sounds, which can make watching movies in the theater a bit uncomfortable. Because I knew this movie would be booming, I wore my noise-cancelling headphones too—with the noise cancelling feature enabled. This trick might not work for everyone—it depends on your degree of hearing loss and the type of devices you use—but it works very well for me. The noise-cancelling feature reduced the deafening repetitive sounds like the swooshing of the fighter jets and the fiery explosions of battle, making the dialogue more prominent. With the open captions as back-up, I can follow along well.

Improvements Still Needed

The open-captioned showing was a joy, but improvements are still needed to make movie-going seamless for people with hearing loss. For example:

Open caption other content too

Most of the pre-movie previews were not captioned. In a strange twist, they showed the same preview twice—first without captions and then with captions. Only the second time did I actually understand the previewed plot!

None of the ads were captioned, including the ones for the theater itself. Even the pre-show message asking patrons to turn off their cellphones, etc. was uncaptioned. Why not include everyone in your promotions?

Tom Cruise recorded a short pre-movie message thanking the audience for coming back to the movies. I wish this content had been captioned too.

Offer more open caption movie showings

I loved my open captioned movie-going experience so much, I am eager to attend more! In October 2021, AMC Theatres announced they were increasing the number of open-captioned showings at 240 cinema locations in 100 markets. Luckily, one of them is where I live. Hopefully, one day soon, wider availability of open-captioned performances will be the rule rather than the exception. Here is how to find open captioned performance for AMC Theatres.

In the meantime, if you are lucky enough to enjoy an open captioned movie, share your joy with management, online and everywhere else you go! Hopefully, positive feedback encourages them to offer more.

Readers, do you enjoy open captions at the movies?

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Book: Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss

17 thoughts on “The Joy of Open Captions at the Movies!

  1. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thank you, Shari. Just to try, I just went to the AMC site and tried to follow their directions for choosing a film and looking for OC showtimes. I simply could not find any listed. Perhaps where to look isn’t clear?

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      They don’t make it as easy as they could! You need to select a movie and a theater and then you can filter the show times for those with Open Captions. See an example here: https://www.amctheatres.com/movies/jurassic-world-dominion-56352/showtimes/jurassic-world-dominion-56352/2022-06-28/amc-lincoln-square-13/opencaption.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Let’s hope so! Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

  2. Your readers should know that a NYC ordinance now requires local cinemas to offer at least four open-captioned showings per week of all movies being shown 13 or more times per week, and for which OC tracks are provided (which is most). The ordinance further requires that these OC showings be advertised in the same manner as all other showings. Violations should be reported to NYC’s 311 number. Fines for violations are severe.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for sharing this information.

  3. Susan Berger – Blogging is one big experiment for me. Will it work? Who knows. I'll link websites that have published my essays and maybe I'll write original posts. My topics will be observations, points of view and life as I see it. I'm still marinating...
    Susan Berger says:

    Thank you, Shari. I never would have found it.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      It could definitely be simpler!

  4. Just to clarify, what are “open captions”? Are they different from “closed captioning” as seen on TV, streaming, etc.? Are they different from the special eyeglasses one can obtain at AMC movie theaters, which provide captions seen through one lens and in perfect sync with the film as it is being shown? (I, too, have not been in a movie theater for almost 3 years, so maybe things have changed.)

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Thank you for this question. I will add this into the article as well.

      Captions come in two basic types: open and closed. Closed Captions are the most common kind of captions, used by major broadcasters and video streaming services. They can be turned on or off by the user and usually require decoding devices (like the CaptiView systems that are often found at movie theaters) to access them.

      Open captions appear directly on the video making them visible to all viewers without the use of a decoder device.

  5. That is exciting to hear. I definitely would go to movies more often if there were more open captions. I have been using the Captiview and it has been so much more enjoyable to be able to follow along. I have been fortunate that I haven’t had any issues using the Captiview so far. I also find myself always impressed that the the workers always know what that Captiview is when I ask for them and they know how to set it up. But maybe I shouldn’t be surprised because the workers are almost always the young people and they do know their technology. lol.

    I have to admit that I am self conscious when I am carrying the Captiview in and out the theaters. I am a private person so I don’t like to attract attention and of course carrying one of those do attract attention. But the enjoyment of enjoying the movie using captions overrides my discomfort of attracting attention. This would be another reason why I would love to go to open caption movies.

    I saw Top Gun too!!! And in the IMAX theater!

    It was great! And of course I wouldn’t have enjoyed as much as I did if I hadn’t had the Captiview.

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Excellent! Thank you for sharing your experiences!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      Fabulous! Enjoy!

  6. I’m envious! I live in the middle of Nebraska– I know LIncoln and Omaha have some accomodations at theatres, but not in the middle! I have been to one with closed captioning devices, and I appreciate it, but I wish it were on the screen!

    1. Shari Eberts – NYC – Shari Eberts is a passionate hearing health advocate and internationally recognized author and speaker on hearing loss issues. She is the founder of Living with Hearing Loss, a popular blog and online community for people with hearing loss, and an executive producer of "We Hear You," an award-winning documentary about the hearing loss experience. Her book, "Hear & Beyond: Live Skillfully with Hearing Loss," (co-authored with Gael Hannan) is the ultimate survival guide to living well with hearing loss. Shari has an adult-onset genetic hearing loss and hopes that by sharing her story, she will help others to live more peacefully with their own hearing issues.
      Shari Eberts says:

      So much better on the screen! Check If you have an AMC theater near you. You might be in luck. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

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