Since moving to Texas, I rarely go to a theatre to see a movie. There arenâ€™t many theatres too close by, ticket prices are high (especially to the unemployed) and my family has MVP Unlimited Movie Rentals from Hollywood Video. The local McDonalds also have the RED BOX where movies are a dollar (a strange concept to my West Coast friends). There are plenty of good movies out there that make it to DVD soon enough, it worth the wait to watch in the comfort of your own home.. and even if they are bad, you’ve only wasted pennies to see it. And one other thing… my brother is deaf.
Several of my family members are hard of hearing, so at home we have gotten used to always have the Closed Captioning on the TV. Unfortunately the Closed Captioning feature is not typically offered for major motion pictures on the BIG SCREEN. This is truly a sad fact. Though it is hard to give exact figures, an estimated 550,000 to one million people in the United States and Canada are deaf, and about 28 million Americans are reported to have severe to profound hearing loss. (1) That is a definite chunk of the population being alienated by Hollywood. Maybe if put into a dollar figure, someone would listen… 28 million Americans at $10 a head to see a movie… $280,000,000 per film in lost potential revenue.
A lot, ok MOST movies do not really need to be seen on the big screen to get the full experience. But every once and a while a movie comes along that DEMANDS it… 300 is such a movie. From the first trailer my brother and I saw to the countless praises from Bloggers all across the internet… we knew this movie had serious potential to be incredible. One guy wrote “300 makes Gladiator look like a cheap kids cartoon.” Awesome.
Obviously, when we found out 300 would be playing at the closest AMC with Open Caption, we were thrilled! Now, it must be said that this AMC is over an hour away. They play 1 open captioned film twice a day on Sunday, Monday, and Tuesday. So 1 movie 6 times a week, and if you miss it then itâ€™s gone. The first time we tried this theatre, I was home about 5 days so it was either go see 40 Year Old Virgin or nothing… granted it was a very funny movie, but not necessarily one you’d want to watch with you parents sitting next to you. We’ve also gone to see The Inside Man. Both films were worth the drive.
Before I go further, let me elaborate on what exactly “Open Caption” means. There are 2 types of “accommodations” theatres have for the deaf/hard of hearing… Open Captioned and Rear Window Caption. Rear Window Caption SUCKS. Really. It is bad. To me it is about the minimum a theatre can do so they can say they are “accommodating” the hard of hearing. What happens is you attend a showing advertised as “Rear Window Captioned” but first stop by Customer Service to pick up a contraption that is basically a 12″ Lucite square that is tinted like sunglasses, attached to a bendy arm that anchors in your cup holder. During the movie, a digital ticker-tape of the dialogue runs across the back of the theatre… so you can see the reflection of the dialogue in your tinted screen as you watch the movie, and none of the hearing people are disturbed. These “gooseneck” devices are notorious for falling over or needing reajustment seveal times throughout the movie, and leaves one with a stiff neck and blurred vision. Lovely.
Even if you can adjust your viewer thing to catch the reflection just right and donâ€™t mind moving your eyes back and forth from screen to text viewer…. the past TWO TIMES we have gone to an AMC for an RWC show, the machinery hasn’t worked. But do they tell us that when we call ahead to ask if it’s working? NO. Do they tell us that when we buy the ticket to the special screening, or when we go to customer service to get the viewer? NO. Me, my sister and brother were all excited, sitting munching our popcorn, ready to watch Over The Hedge, only to sadly depart about 2 minutes into the movie… stumbling in the dark while my brother asks “The raccoon was Bruce Willis, right?” The manager was polite and apologized, refunded our tickets and snacks and gave use each a free pass so we’d come back. But it is all still a bit disheartening and puts a damper on the rest of your day. And why would we try to come back again when eveing calling and asking ahead of time does not guarantee anything.
So now my family and I stick to Open Caption (O.C.) movies at the AMC in Houston. It should be noted that Houston is the 4th largest city in the country, and yet only has 2, maybe 3 theaters with Open Caption films. With the help of Marilee Matlin and Organizations like InSight Cinema, the presence of OC Movies across the country is expanding.
Open Caption films are the superior choice for the hard of hearing movie goers. In this case, the words appear directly on the screen (without being in a black-box background like on US TV shows). However, the captioning does differ from film to film (I donâ€™t know why). In 40 Year Old Virgin, the words were in an aqua blue color, easy to read, and appeared next to the person speaking them. This made conversations between 2-3 people easy to follow. For Inside Man and 300, the words were in yellow and appeared at the bottom of the screen. This is fine 75% of the time when a scene is at night or what not, but it becomes hard to read when the words are against a white toga. Nevertheless, the overall experience is far more pleasant than rear window captioning. O.C. movies are open to the public of course, and even if you can hear perfectly well, I recommend you go see one if it’s playing in your area. You catch SO MUCH more of the dialogue when you see the words… and the theaters are usually a bit less crowded.
So last weekend my brother, parents and I load up into the car and head into Houston to see 300. We are settled in our seats about 20 min early, when the manager come in and asks us if we are here to see the Open Captioned movie… and explains that it will not run at 2pm as advertised. WHAT THE DEUCE!? We remain clam as he explains that the movie arrived late and hadn’t been “built” yet. He says we are welcome to go see another movie but that was not exactly a viable solution. As we walk back to the customer service counter, we explain that this has happened to us before at other AMC Theatres and that we live over an hour away. The manager was more than pleasant and refunded our money and gave us 8 movie passes. My family started walking to parking lot, not too upset because we were leaving with about $80 worth of movie tickets. Before we made it to the end of the courtyard, the manager rushes out to tell us, if we were willing to wait and extra 20 minutes, the film would be ready (apparently movies are shipped to the theatre in several small reels, then the theatre combines them onto one BIG real, eliminating the need for a human being to sit in the projector room). YAY! So we make it back into the theatre, free of charge, and experience one of the greatest movies I have seen in a long long time. I really have to thank the AMC Studio 30 for going above and beyond in the customer service department.
At the end of the day, I am very happy my family had the chance to see 300 together on the big screen. I promise, go see this movie and you will not be disappointed. The story (thought not 100% historically accurate) keeps you captivated the entire time and the music/soundtrack is powerful and right on point. There are no words to describe how visually stunning the movie is to watch… 300 makes even a decapitation look beautiful and almost poetic. The feel of a graphic novel translated onto the Big Screen… and the greatest part is that no one actor is pulling the movie. Many of the actors you have probably seen or heard of before, but you are not focused on any one name, just an excellent ensemble telling an epic story…oh… and the main cast had to go through 6 weeks of intensive physical training… and it shows 😉 Go See 300.