Are we too nice to cinemas?

There was an interesting comment (see, I do read them!) to my blog about subtitled spectacles suggest that we’re too nice to cinemas and that deaf people should be demanding the right to watch subtitles films at convenient times, not just at quiet times when hearing people don’t want to go.

On the one hand, cinemas say that the UK leads the world on accessible cinema and they provide more and more subtitled films – even though low attendance numbers mean they rarely make a profit out of it. It’s claimed that hearing people won’t see subtitled showings. Their line is that cinemas need to make a profit at the end of the day and they can’t do so if they show subtitled films at peak times.

On the other hand, if access means anything, it means being able to go and see a film at a reasonable time, maybe on a Friday or Saturday along with my hearing friends. There is very little meaningful choice. If I happen to be busy on the one Tuesday that a subtitled film is showing in central-ish location, I may find myself never getting an opportunity to see a film I really want to see. As Alison said, the policy of only showing subtitled films at twilight zone times rather feels like forcing a wheelchair to come in by the backdoor.

My conclusion is that if the cinema industry is serious about providing access, it needs to find ways to provide meaningful choice. If they feel they can’t do this without driving away hearing customers, then they have a responsibility to come up with innovative ways around this – like subtitles spectacles or rear view windows or whatever, anything that works for everyone.

What do you think? Are we too nice to cinemas? How do we respond to their justifications for not going further?

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