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SF Gate Media Kit
 




Captions Open Berkeley Films To Deaf Patrons

Lisa A. Goldstein

Friday, November 20, 1998
San Francisco Chronicle
Chronicle Sections

BERKELEY -- Attending movies hasn't been a satisfying venture for the hearing impaired,

but this is changing in Berkeley, thanks to the advent of open

captions.

The hearing impaired can feel frustrated and

left out when they can't appreciate new releases that are commanding

the nation's attention.

Organizations like DEAF Media in

Berkeley are seeking to open the world a little to the hearing

impaired by promoting open-captioned movies. Open captions are

equivalent to subtitles in foreign films, but they also include

nonvisual cues, like a phone ringing or a baby crying.

Open-captioned movies in Berkeley have been shown at Shattuck

Cinemas at noon on the second Saturday of every month since

February. Starting this month, the movies won't have a consistent

schedule, but now hearing-impaired moviegoers will be able to

have their choice of a day or evening showing.

Shattuck Cinemas is part of Landmark Theaters, a company that gained

experience with captioned films in Palo Alto and was willing

to try it in Berkeley.

Open captioned movies have been

shown in Palo Alto since 1996 with the help of Deaf Education

and Access Foundation (DEAF).

DEAF is a Palo Alto-based

nonprofit group that works to advance educational access for

the deaf.

The first open-captioned movie shown in Palo

Alto was ``Mission Impossible.''

Barbara Baer, treasurer

of the organization, said, ``(It) was the perfect title for

us as we are trying to find the impossible to get all the technology

we can get to make our lives easier as hearing-impaired persons,

and we should be able to do the same things that the majority

of the world is able to do.''

DEAF Media and DEAF are not

related, but share a common mission. DEAF Media is also a nonprofit

organization that works on national advocacy and it was DEAF

Media's Executive Director Susan Rutherford who approached Nancy

Klubben, local manager of Landmark Theaters, to ask about using

the theater for open-captioned movies. There was no opposition. ``Everybody really wanted it to happen,'' Klubben said.

Rutherford said, ``Having a resolution from the Berkeley City Council and the Council on Disability didn't hurt either. This is a win-win for the theater and for the Berkeley community.''

Under the old system, the hearing-impaired regulars complained about movies being shown once at noon. They wanted to be able to see movies at night as well.

Klubben had said that the movies could not be shown during the evening because film distributors for other movies wouldn't allow their shows canceled for an open-captioned one. The Saturday noon showing had been one of the few available times that didn't conflict with the distributors' contracts.

But now, Rutherford said, a system has been worked out to allow a day and evening showing. ``The show times will not be known until a week before,'' she said. ``Show times generally are a matinee around 1 p.m. and an evening show around 7 p.m. The times vary depending on how long the film is.''

Hearing-impaired people still have fewer movie choices. Traditionally, the movies were ordered through Tripod Captioned Films, a nonprofit program in Burbank. Nancy Linke-Ellis, co-founder of Tripod, selected the films based on studios' predictions.

Katherine Cooley, 24, a marketing assistant and herself a regular, said, ``I think Tripod tries to pick popular films, but oftentimes the films that really need captioning (The English Patient) are the ones that never get it.''

Other moviegoers echo the complaint. Penny Atlee, 58, bookkeeper, said, ``I do resent having others choose for us.''

``The objective is to get as current a release of a popular film that everyone would like to see,'' Rutherford said.

Some studios have begun to come onboard and release open- captioned movies directly. As this trend grows, the hearing impaired will have the freedom to choose more than one movie.

The average attendance at open- captioned movies is 120, according to Klubben.

Supporters intend to increase participation.

``Reaching the deaf and hard-of- hearing patron who isn't online, not a member of a group or mailing list, and isn't aware of deaf services in general is the biggest challenge of all,'' Linke-Ellis said.

She wants people to understand that this is a transitional year, as efforts are under way to improve the market by the organizations involved, such as Tripod and the studios.

``This is about treating us like the considerable consumer group that we are -- 30 million people affected by hearing loss who have never been to the movies or stopped going because it became too tough to enjoy,'' she said.


OPEN-CAPTIONED FILMS

``Rush Hour'' will be shown Tuesday and Wednesday at Shattuck Avenue Cinemas, 2220 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley.

Check www.tripod.org for open-captioned films throughout the nation.

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