When I was a child, I didn’t have a lot of options when it came to my hearing loss. I could only choose from the few analog hearing aids available. Going to see a movie in the theater was the stuff my dreams were made of. Talking on the phone was out of the question. I could only be accommodated as much as technology would allow.
Today, I get to choose. My hearing aids have gone digital, my CapTel phone gives me the freedom to chat and – at long last – my movie dreams are being fulfilled. I heard that Cinemark added a new closed captioning device called CaptiView to their Plaza location and decided to give it a try. My friend and I went to an evening showing of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. We ordered our tickets and received the equipment without incident (though one of the employees didn’t seem quite sure what we were asking for… the manager came along and helped us out, though).
I didn’t get a chance to take a picture while the movie was playing, but I did snap this one after the movie was over. This is the CaptiView screen:
The screen attaches to a bendable “neck” which is connected to a solid “anchor” that fits in your cup holder. If you’ve ever used Rear Window Captioning (RWC), the general design is similar. Unlike RWC, the CaptiView system is much steadier – the screen mostly stayed in one place when I adjusted it. However, the anchor part had a hard time staying in the cup holder – I think the CaptiView could use a minor redesign so that the screen part isn’t heavier than the anchor. I ended up holding the anchor in place so I could enjoy the movie without moving the screen every few seconds.
The captions run on a different technology than RWC and do not reflect captions from a screen at the back of the theater the way that RWC does. Instead, the captions run on a “wireless band frequency” and I will tell you right now that means nothing to this former English major. 😉 What it does mean is that I did not have to sit in a specific area of the auditorium in order to reflect any captions – I got to choose where I wanted to sit!
The CaptiView screen is not very large, less than a foot wide and a few inches tall (I hope you appreciate my precise measurements there… again, former English major. I don’t speak numbers.). There are three slants that divide each line of dialogue. The CaptiView information sheet explains that this is to ensure privacy and minimize disruption for neighboring patrons. The slants did not bother me too much but because the CaptiView would tilt slowly (even while I was holding the anchor), the slants would obscure some of the text, so I would have to fidget with the screen every now and then.
The text itself was easy to read and I was able to (mostly) position the CaptiView device so that it was, from my perspective, right underneath the screen. While following the movie wasn’t quite as effortless as it would have been with open captions (seeing all the action and dialogue on the same screen), it still was a much more seamless experience than my past encounters with RWC technology. The text size was not an issue for me, but it was definitely much smaller than open captions or TV captions are. Some people may find it helpful to bring their reading glasses or be prepared to adjust the screen so that it is closer or further away.
When we dropped off the devices after the movie, I was able to chat briefly with one of the customer service representatives. She confirmed that the Plaza location has eight CaptiView devices and – my favorite part – ANY movie that is offered in digital format is available with captions (the only caveat is that 3D movies are currently not available with captions)! This means any movie, any showing (just be sure you are looking at the digital showings and not the standard format showings)… can you hear the Hallelujah Chorus right now?! Because I certainly can! 🙂
There were, however, a few downsides and some of them just boil down to my personal preference and perception. I’m not crazy about the extra work required for someone who is deaf or hard of hearing to see a movie. Requesting the equipment sometimes creates an awkward exchange if the employee behind the counter isn’t sure what you’re talking about. Walking through the theater with the device and then fidgeting in my seat to adjust the screen draws a bit of attention and I’m a shy lady… so feeling a few more eyes on me is not the most comfortable experience. I found it hard to get “lost” in the movie because I kept flickering back and forth between the CaptiView and the movie screen and had to adjust it every once in a while… I had to think about what was going on in the movie AND whether or not I was getting all the information. I’m still pining for the days of open captions, but I think that the CaptiView system is a valiant effort to fill the gap between RWC and open captions.
Overall, I had a good experience with Cinemark and CaptiView and would definitely go again because I have so many more options… I’m still trying to wrap my head around any movie, any time! 🙂