Marlee Matlin's Talk to the Hand
Updated: July 6, 2012 8:54AM
Summer unofficially began last weekend — barbecues and road trips, baseball and movies. Traditionally, the film studios trot out their big movies starting on Memorial Day to take advantage of all the kids and families looking for something to do. But for 35 million Americans like me who are deaf and hard of hearing, going to see a blockbuster like “Men in Black 3” isn’t quite so simple.
Here’s how the drill goes at my house: The kids are clamoring to see a hot movie; Entertainment Weekly gives it an A-minus! Great, let’s see where it’s playing. Wow, just a mile from the house. Fine, but let me see if there are available screenings with subtitles because in my case, that’s the only way I can understand the film. But when I check the listings, I find that showings available with captions (there are a variety of technologies, all with abbreviated names that I haven’t quite grasped yet: OC, CV, RWC) are all located 10 or 15 miles away. Even more puzzling, the screening times don’t make sense: 11 a.m., 10:45 p.m. Somehow, popcorn before lunchtime doesn’t taste as good, and 10:45 p.m. for this mom and four kids is out of the question.
The kids are getting anxious — they want to go now. So I just throw up my hands and shrug. More than likely, I’ll end up watching Will Smith shoot aliens silently while doing my best to figure out what’s going on, just like I’ve done countless times before.
This is the summer dilemma for millions of Americans who are deaf or hard of hearing. It doesn’t make sense because the technology is there; Sony, working with America’s largest film chain, Regal Cinemas, provides what are called Access Glasses — a wi-fi pair of specs that show subtitles in the glasses — for any movie playing in digital formats at the theater so as not to interfere with other moviegoers’ normal viewing. But Sony is only making 500 pairs a month. At that rate, I might be able to see “Men in Black 24” when it comes out in 2019.
Until the studios and theater owners can collectively decide how to make movies accessible, we’ll just have to wait for summer at the movies another time. And isn’t that a shame? Because not only would it be the right thing to do, it would mean a lot of tickets and $5 popcorn that they could be selling.
With her interpreter Jack Jason
Marlee Matlin donated her $1,000 fee for writing this column to Club 21, clubtwentyone.org. She is the celebrity spokesperson for the National Association of the Deaf and serves as an advocate on issues including closed captioning.