"Accessible, subtitled/captioned cinema shows provide social benefits such as equality and inclusion. For a few hours, the disabling barrier is removed, enabling film fans with hearing loss to enjoy, rather than endure the cinema experience"
Sep 2019: Technology that drives accessibility - update on progress HERE (pdf)
"...accessibility still remains an area where ever-increasing audience expectations present an ongoing challenge. But it is also one area where the latest technologies can offer innovative solutions for cinema operators ... acknowledged the business opportunity that this audience represents — currently one in six of the UK public identifies as having some form of hearing difficulty ... ‘open captions’ are perhaps unlikely ever to deliver the number and range of subtitled screenings necessary to meet demand ... the general audience does not ordinarily like films projected with open captions ... most cinema operators face the dilemma of wanting to do more, but knowing that the greater provision of subtitled screenings, particularly at busy times, will result in them taking a box office ‘hit’ ... Conscious of increasing pressure to deliver more in terms of subtitling (and of the potential economic impacts of doing so under the current approach), the UKCA sought to open the conversation up ... an offer of development funding to the best or most promising solutions ... almost 20 proposals were received ... input not just from an expert panel of colleagues from across the cinema industry, but also a user group, convened by Action on Hearing Loss, consisting of a number of deaf and hearing impaired cinema-goers (amongst whom were some of the most outspoken critics of the industry’s approach to date). ... The expert panel looked at the different proposals from a viewpoint of operational and economic feasibility ... The latter [user] group was clear about what it wanted to see from any solution, specifically something which was inclusive, not singling out audience ms as a result of disability and applicable across the widest possible range of film releases ... a significant amount has been allocated to each of three short-listed solutions, the aim being (where relevant) to develop a prototype ready for further ‘field testing’. Two of those solutions rely on a subtitling glasses solution ... the other offers an interesting take on the secondary screen approach, albeit without it is anticipated any significant need for investment by the cinema operator"
May 2019: Three proposals short-listed: Two glasses/app solutions and one secondary screen/app solution.
UKCA Press release:
"The UK Cinema Association has today confirmed the next steps on their pioneering Technology Challenge Fund, established to stimulate technological innovation that will allow people with hearing loss to have a more inclusive cinema experience.
"The Fund was launched in partnership with Action on Hearing Loss in October 2018, with an ‘invitation to apply’ which saw over a dozen different applications offering a range of different potential solutions to the challenge. Following extensive consideration by an expert panel of industry professionals and a ‘user panel’ of deaf and hard of hearing cinema-goers, three proposals have now been short-listed for the first round of funding. Two of these – put forward by the National Theatre and Greta & Starks respectively – involve the use of assistive eyewear, while the third – proposed by Screen Language relies on a secondary screen.
"The availability of subtitled screenings has long been an issue of contention. While subtitles are a vital solution for many who are deaf or hard of hearing, the reluctance of many cinema-goers to attend such screenings means that offering widespread provision is challenging for many cinema operators.
"The provision of ‘closed’ captioned subtitles – where text is only visible to the individual on a personal device such as a screen or specially-adapted glasses, has long be seen to offer one way forward. Commenting on this latest development, UK Cinema Association Chief Executive Phil Clapp said: “While there is still a great deal of development work and testing to be done, we have been pleased by the quality of the proposals put forward and are hopeful that at least one of the short-listed applications will eventually provide a viable solution.” Jesal Vishnuram, from Action on Hearing Loss added: “Action on Hearing Loss are committed to supporting the development of new and innovative technology to improve the lives of people with hearing loss. The Cinema Subtitle Challenge Fund is a great collaborative venture that has led to some very exciting opportunities to genuinely improve the cinema experience for people with hearing loss.”
"While each of the final three solutions are at varying stages of development, the next step will be to arrange a practical demonstration to assess the operational viability of the proposal before further funding and R&D takes place."
Full details below. Watch this page for developments/updates.
UKCA Conference. March 6th 2019:
'UKCA proposals for viable closed caption solutions for deaf and hard of hearing customers. This session will invite the four short-listed applicants to explain and – where possible – demonstrate their proposals'
...the development of a solution that will allow people with hearing loss to have a more inclusive cinema experience ... help to find a suitable commercial partner to develop and create a market-ready product ... cinemas committed to trialing any viable solutions ...
The UK cinema industry will support the development of a solution that will allow people with hearing loss to have a more inclusive cinema experience. Up to £75,000 is available to support innovative projects in this competition.
Should a suitable and viable product be developed that the UK cinema industry approves and meets the desired criteria set out in the aims and objectives (below), 'Action on Hearing Loss' will help to find a suitable commercial partner to develop and create a market-ready product. The three largest UK cinema chains (Odeon, Cineworld and Vue) are committed to trialing any viable solutions arising from this process and there are potential routes to European and International markets (such a solution could also provide foreign language subtitle tracks - a vast and currently untapped market). The successful applicant will have full Intellectual Property (IP) ownership and will take a percentage of the revenue from product sales.
Closing date for applications is Friday 28 Sept 2018. People working alone, or in collaboration with others, in organisations of any size are welcome to apply. The fund is open to anyone who can demonstrate their capabilities in this field by completing an application form, and attending a launch workshop in London on 10 Oct 2018, and further events later in the process as appropriate.
The ideal solution cannot be prohibitively expensive - it must:
• Allow people to view subtitles without disturbing other viewers who do not want to view subtitles (hearing people) ;
• Be financially viable for cinemas to install and use;
• Utilise subtitle files that are affordable for film distribution companies, and are compatible with existing cinema infrastructure and technology;
• Be easy to use for both the cinema and audience m;
• Be robust enough to withstand repeated use, and capable of straightforward maintenance.
Up to £75,000 is available to support innovative projects in this competition. This is initially divided across two phases:
Phase 1 up to £25,000 available (to a limit of £5,000 per project);
Phase 2 up to £50,000 available (to a limit of £25,000 per project)
Entrants will be expected to demonstrate the technical feasibility of their proposed innovation. Projects can range in size up to a total cost of £5,000. Proposals must be completed within eight weeks.
Phase 1 applicants will be invited to a ‘development workshop’ at which they can refine and discuss their initial ideas with industry experts.
Phase 1 proposals will be judged by an independent panel which will be supported by technical peer review.
Phase 2 is only open to applicants that have completed Phase 1 and successfully demonstrated that their concept is technically feasible. In Phase 2, entrants will develop and test a working prototype in a ‘real life’ cinema. Projects can range in size up to £25,000 and can last up to six months.
Phase 2 applicants will be given access to a cinema to allow testing during the development of the prototype and will have access to a technical expert to help ensure that the final solution is technically compatible with existing cinema infrastructure.
Phase 2 proposals will be judged by an independent panel
A showcase event will be held at the end of the process at which successful prototypes will be demonstrated to relevant stakeholders, including people with hearing loss, cinema operators and potential partners able to support the commercialisation and/or adoption of the most promising solution.
June – Sept: Application to express interest to be involved
10th October: Launch workshop
Nov: Development paper for Phase 1 grant
Dec: £5,000 Phase 1 grants awarded
February: Phase 1 closes
April: £25,000 Phase 2 grants awarded
Sept: Phase 2 closes
Nov: Showcase event
A panel of ten film industry professionals (hearing), one Action On Hearing Loss patron (deaf), and a user panel of people with hearing loss will help guide and provide input at every stage of the Fund to ensure that the chosen solution meets the required criteria.
"The goal is a solution that hearing-impaired customers can use to give a better overall experience" More info: ChallengeFundArticle.pdf
YourLocalCinema - Report on UK Accessible Cinema
2018 was one of the most lucrative years ever for UK cinemas. It had the highest number of admissions for 50 years (177 million admissions), with £1.37 billion revenue.
Last year, more than 900 films were released. More than 20 UK film distributors spent around £500,000 producing almost 200 subtitle/caption/narration tracks to enable cinemas to provide accessible shows from release date.
Last year almost 100 cinema companies provided 75,000+ English-language subtitled/captioned shows of almost 200 films in 500+ cinemas across the UK & Ireland. Three cinema companies - Odeon, Cineworld and Vue - provided around 70% of accessible shows. In 2018 there were more than a million admissions to these accessible shows. £8m+ worth of tickets. Attendance to accessible shows has tripled over the last decade. An estimated 6m tickets - £35m worth - have been issued to date.
According to the UK cinema industry "the general experience of UK cinemas is that the broader audience does not wish to attend subtitled screenings, and will avoid them if given the choice" (People will attend a regular, non-subtitled show instead, of which there are usually many to choose from).
Only a small percentage of cinema-goers need subtitles for their film enjoyment, so attendances for separate, 'on-screen' subtitled shows are usually less than that for regular, non-subtitled shows. Because audiences will be smaller, and therefore less profit will be made, cinemas are reluctant to schedule subtitled screenings widely, and in particular at peak viewing times. This results in a very limited choice of films and shows. Expectations regarding improved access understandably continue to increase, because film fans with hearing loss expect to be treat equally.
Before 2000, the only way people with hearing loss could enjoy cinema was to watch a foreign-language film. Today, thanks to collaborative work between the UK film industry, YourLocalCinema, and charities representing disabled people, most cinemas are accessible. Thousands of customers with hearing loss regularly attend cinemas with their friends & families.
Accessible cinema shows have made a positive, cultural, long-term impact on society. They benefit people of all ages. Each year in the UK, hundreds of children are born with significant hearing loss (NDCS). It's estimated that more than ten million, including thousands of young people, have hearing loss (AOHL). Our society is ageing, and with ageing, loss of some hearing is inevitable. Access to film - via subtitles - is something that we may all appreciate, eventually.
The UK cinema industry says it is determined to help ensure that people with hearing loss can enjoy the cinema experience, and that it continually investigates developments in the area of accessible cinema. A percentage of income from the industry's ‘Carer goes free’ discount card scheme is allocated to be spent on cinema access schemes. (Last year more than 120,000 people purchased the £6.00 cards that issues a free ticket to a person accompanying a disabled person).
The UK Cinema Association's 2018 Annual Report stated 'During 2018, the Association worked with ms and a range of industry partners to ensure that the UK cinema sector continued to develop its approaches around meeting the needs of disabled customers ... supported by the advice and guidance ... Disability Working Group (DWG) ... The Association remains hugely grateful to all of those that support its work on these important issues, and who help to make the cinema-going experience as enjoyable and accessible as possible for all disabled customers ... developed workshops - ‘Welcoming Disabled Customers’... provision of accessible screenings has grown significantly ... levels of take-up relatively low ... Subtitling ... general unwillingness of the wider audience to embrace such screenings – and the resultant reluctance of cinema operators therefore to schedule them at peak times – has resulted in fewer subtitled screenings, and less at peak times, than many deaf and hard of hearing customers would like, something which became the subject of increasing social media comment during the year, culminating in at least two high profile petitions demanding that cinemas increase their provision in this area ... sat down with those behind these petitions, both to hear their views and explore how the industry might if possible respond ... Audio described (AD) screenings ... the Association continued during the year to engage with several companies offering ‘app-based’ solutions ... There is a good deal to suggest that these technologies, which offer the customer the opportunity to pre-download to their smartphone a copy of the AD track which then ‘syncs’ with the film soundtrack once the customer is in the cinema, might offer a positive way forward in making AD much more widely available ... However concerns remain, not least around content security ... The Association enjoys the support of a wide range of industry and other partner organisations throughout the year. Principal amongst these were colleagues at the Film Distributors’ Association ... with whom it discussed a wide range of strategic and operational issues, including accessible cinema'
The UK’s Equality and Disability Acts require cinemas to provide ‘reasonable adjustments’ to enable people with hearing loss to attend. The cinema industry’s association (UKCA) recommends to its ms that cinemas should ‘endeavour to show more subtitled films more frequently, raise awareness of the value and importance of subtitles among their audiences, work more closely with disability organisations, and place inclusivity at the forefront of their architectural and staff training goals.
Currently, in the UK, film fans with hearing loss are only welcomed for specific shows, on specific days, at specific times. Convenient opportunities to attend are very limited. Around 99% of UK cinema shows are inaccessible to film fans with hearing loss. Many cinemas provide only ONE film each week with subtitles. Most subtitled shows are midweek, at inconvenient times, and Fri/Sat evening shows are practically non-existent. Fact is, most film fans with hearing loss that would like to attend and spend money at cinemas cannot do so, because most have jobs or school to attend during the day. There are simply not enough opportunities to attend at convenient times.
'Personal' subtitle/caption adaptive aids - glasses, screens and smartphone apps - exist and are in use in cinemas in the US, Australia and some European countries. Subtitle glasses are available for theatre shows at the National Theatre in London. Some of these solutions have been evaluated by the UK cinema industry. Although all can significantly increase access to the cinema for customers who need subtitling, none fully meets the criteria set out in the key objectives of the UK cinema industry's 'Challenge Fund'.
Utilising its unique database of UK film-fans with sensory loss, YourLocalCinema has helped the BFI, UKCA and others to round up attendees and focus group participants for full-house film industry events to address both the fiscal and technical challenges of these products. Feedback and views of attendees to these events continue to help shape the future of UK accessible cinema.
The BFI is a UK public body which awards money raised from the sale of National Lottery tickets to film-related projects. Last year it received around £97m from the Lottery and awarded £48 million to film-related projects. Since 2011 it has awarded more than £220 million. It is supporting YourLocalCinema from June 2018 to May 2019 with £15,000. The BFI has recommended the UK cinema industry improve access to film fans with hearing or sight loss.
Its 2002 report stated: 'Evidence from the USA suggests that legislation and the market alone will not deliver the kind of widespread access which cinema patrons with sensory loss need and want ... things required to make it happen: A level of investment which creates critical mass in the market place ... Open [on-screen] captions means a limited number of screenings. What is important is that such screenings are regular and well publicised'. It recommended: 'R&D funding to help develop a personal device which can work alongside existing digital open systems. The reaction of hearing audiences to open subtitles should be formally tested with a view to determining an ‘acceptable level’ of open screenings ... Continue to monitor customer feedback ... financially support YourLocalCinema'
The recommendations above helped create the UK's first Cinema Access Scheme. The success of the scheme, which was mostly England-based, helped to introduce similar schemes to Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales. (In 2004 YourLocalCinema became the official 'marketing arm' for all of those schemes, growing the audience for accessible cinema along the way).
YourLocalCinema has since helped research and produce many industry reports. The BFI 'Study of cinema access and film consumption for audiences with sensory impairments' report stated: '83% of people with hearing loss said they would attend cinema regularly if a nearby cinema had accessible shows at convenient times'. Recommendations: 'Increase choice of films, showtimes, number of films ... Establish industry standards ... Promote efficient advertising'
The UKFC/BFI 'Diversity Report': 'ensure that equality and diversity commitments are fully integrated ... enable all groups within our society to participate in and enjoy film culture .. ensure full and equal access to film for disabled people, particularly as audiences'
The BFI 'Disability Equality Scheme': 'access, inclusion and diversity issues to become mainstreamed'
The 'Peer Review of the UK Film Council', commissioned by the DCMS: 'improve access and inclusion for all '
BFI 'Policy and funding priorities for the next three years' consultation: Around 1,000 responses received, including a 'strong showing of responses from deaf and blind people and their representatives, calling for continued support for accessible screenings in cinemas'
An ICO report funded by the BFI’s Film Audience Network: ‘more could be done for people who are affected by deafness ... create real change so that the cinema can be the same transformative experience as it is for hearing patrons’
The latest BFI ‘2022’ report: ‘BFI is committed to ensuring that the cinema experience is open to all, especially to disabled audiences ... we have placed diversity and inclusion at the heart of our objectives ... clearly a moral imperative for society generally ... work with partners to ensure that all audiences have the opportunity to enjoy film ... Film has the power to engage all sections of society ... Inequality in access to culture is bad for business and bad for society'
Its 2017-18 'Risk Register' stated 'there's a risk that the reputation of the BFI, in relation to diversity and inclusion, as the lead body for film will be tarnished of it fails to deliver its diversity commitments as set out in its BFI2022 report'
Its 2017 annual report states: 'Using funding from the National Lottery, the BFI Audience Fund is underpinned by our desire to boost diversity and inclusivity ... recognise and value the quality of difference ... seek to rebalance under-representation in audiences ... opportunities for everyone to engage in film as part of an audience ... we are urgently addressing barriers in the film industry around inclusion ... increase access and participation for those sections of society who do not currently benefit from opportunities available in the UK ... BFI aims to ensure that equality and diversity are central to all activities thus allowing sections of society to have access to or benefit from funding ... One of the strengths of the BFI cultural programme is its inventive capability of accenting inclusion and diversity ... Diversity and inclusion are at the heart of our strategy ... BFI aims to ensure that equality and diversity are central to all activities ... support & encourage cultural diversity ... improve community cohesion and/ or social inclusion ... Where awards are made in relation to feature film production or distribution projects the BFI should take into account the need to improve public access to film through the use of audio-description and/or subtitling for the hard of hearing. All relevant projects in receipt of this type of funding are required, contractually, to comply with these conditions'
YourLocalCinema suggestions (originally from 2010): 'the UK film industry puts out a call - a news-worthy competition with a contract at the end of it - for anyone to come up with a consumer-friendly solution ... many would give it a go ... take on a challenge to sort out a problem ... help thousands of people with hearing loss to enjoy the cinema experience ... An ideal solution would be user friendly, cinema-friendly, require no staff training, work from every seat, be simple and inexpensive, industry-approved ... enable under-served, untapped audiences to enjoy cinema ... The content is there, the audience is there (tens of thousands of film fans - UK residents and visiting Europeans - whose first language is not English, as well as people with hearing loss ... inject funds to help enable more people to enjoy the cinema experience ... promote cultural diversity and improve consumers’ access ... new ways to engage audiences ... enable under-served audiences to share the cinema experience with others ... remove barriers for thousands of people ... improve choice and enhance the overall value of the cinema experience from the perspective of the customer.
Accurate, targeted listings of accessible shows should be an integral part of any subtitle solution company's sales strategy. Market the BENEFITS of the product, rather than the product itself, directly to the target audience - film fans with hearing loss'
All cinemas can be accessible. All can screen films with subtitles/captions to enable customers with hearing loss to enjoy the cinema experience with family and friends. All can screen all films on the YourLocalCinema website with subtitles.
Films are provided to cinemas on a usb drive, or by satellite. Subtitles are set to ‘on’ for particular scheduled shows. Some cinemas provide one accessible show a week. Some provide three or four. Cinemas prefer to SCHEDULE subtitled shows a week or more in advance, so everyone knows a particular show is subtitled. Cinemas prefer NOT to provide subtitles ‘on demand’ because that show will have been listed as NOT subtitled, and people may have already booked tickets to see that show without subtitles.
Accessible shows: https://www.yourlocalcinema.com
Notes: For some 3D and Imax versions, cinemas need to request the tracks from the studio/distributor that produced them.
Although subtitle tracks are produced for EVERY film, in time for the home entertainment release, smaller films from smaller distributors, and most 'live theatre/concert shows' rarely include a subtitle track on the cinema release.
Many film trailers are also provided to cinemas with a subtitle track. (All cinema trailers COULD be accessible in this way).
Although all can provide on-screen subtitles, outdoor & drive-in cinemas rarely welcome film fans with hearing loss.
LIMITED AUDIENCE + LIMITED CHOICE = LIMITED ATTENDANCE
To enable people with hearing loss to participate in activities and spend money can be costly, simply because the number of users of such facilities is limited. Although it's estimated that more than ten million people in the UK have hearing loss, many are 60 or over and don’t attend cinema as often as they used to. The number of potential cinema-goers that require subtitles for their film enjoyment is a tiny percentage of the 'regular' audience. This factor severely limits attendance.
To enable this niche group to enjoy its service, UK cinemas provide 'open-captioned/subtitled' shows (where subtitles are presented on-screen, for all audience ms to see). Most people that don't need subtitles will avoid these infrequent, usually off-peak shows, and instead attend regular, non-subtitled shows, of which there are always many to choose from each week.
Most people attend cinemas at the weekend, in the evenings. Most cinemas are almost empty mid-week daytimes and most evenings. Overall, each week, more than half of available cinema seats remain unsold. An empty seat at a subtitled show is not a ‘lost sale’. Subtitled shows don't stop people attending regular non-subtitled shows. Subtitled shows don’t LOSE money, they just don’t make AS MUCH money as regular, non-subtitled shows, simply because the audience size for subtitled shows is a small percentage of the ‘regular’ audience, and it's unlikely that a significant number will turn up to the same location, at the same time, to watch one more-often-than-not off-peak screening of a particular film chosen for them by the cinema. Although most people with hearing loss attend cinema shows with friends, partners, or family ms, the average attendance to a subtitled show is usually less than that of a regular, non-subtitled show of the same film at a similar time.
Because attendance will be down considerably, most cinemas prefer NOT to welcome customers with hearing loss in the busiest periods. Convenient opportunities to attend are very limited. Around 99% of UK cinema shows are inaccessible to film fans with hearing loss. Of the 1% that ARE accessible, via subtitles, most are provided mid-week, before 6pm, when most people are attending jobs or in education. Fri/Sat evening accessible shows are practically non-existent.
The above limiting factors are reflected in overall admissions. For subtitled shows, a lower-than-usual turnout is to be expected. 2017 data from hundreds of UK cinemas indicated that average attendance to subtitled shows was less than that of regular shows (figures roughly correlate with the surrounding population of each cinema - many London subtitled shows have 50+ in attendance). Overall, nationwide, attendance is less than that of a regular, non-subtitled show in a similar time-slot.
"There are not enough disabled people out there to make accessible shows economically-viable!"
Every week, YourLocalCinema promotes up to 1,500 accessible, subtitled shows - around £170,000 worth of cinema tickets - which is a tiny percentage of the weekly £20m+ box office revenue.
"It may not always be economically-viable for service providers to welcome customers with hearing or sight loss, or physical disabilities - to provide 'access' features such as audio/text info, disabled toilets/parking spaces, ramps, elevators and wheelchair spaces. Accessible, subtitled shows at peak times are less economically-viable than regular peak-time shows. To provide an accessible peak-time show, a cinema may have to put purpose before profit - forego potential extra income"
Limited box office revenue may prevent smaller film distributors from investing in future subtitle/caption/narration 'access' tracks for their films. Although the largest film companies ensure that the most popular films are provided to cinemas with subtitle tracks, overall less than half of the 500+ English-language films released each year have subtitle tracks.
"A limited audience, with a limited choice of accessible films and showtimes, limits opportunities to attend, which limits box office revenue"
With sensible scheduling and targeted marketing, subtitled shows CAN be profitable. Over the years YourLocalCinema has collaborated with a variety of cinemas, outdoor events and film festivals to help round up thousands for well-attended subtitled shows. Almost 700 attended a well-promoted, peak-time, outdoor subtitled screening of a recent Star Wars film. More than 1,000 attended THREE well-promoted subtitled 3D screenings of the same film. One of the shows at the 450+ seat central London cinema was completely sold out. To ensure that customers didn't attend these well-promoted shows accidentally (it happens...) the shows were clearly indicated as subtitled on the cinema website, as well as on the box office tills, and on notices throughout the foyer. Also, the YourLocalCinema.com website had a direct link to the cinemas booking page for the shows. It's very likely that most that attended either did so on purpose (specifically for the subtitles), or they didn't mind the subtitles.
Note: Many attendees to subtitled shows don’t have hearing loss. Some customers accompany those with hearing loss. Some are not bothered if a chosen film/time happens to be an accessible show. Some often inadvertently purchase tickets to subtitled shows and ‘put up’ with the words on the screen, rather than leave. The lack of positive promotion in many cinemas may give some people the impression that they are a negative ‘inconvenience’. Ideally they’d be promoted as a positive, useful feature for many.
When it comes to accessible film, the larger film companies (Disney, Fox, WB etc) ensure that all their films are accessible via subtitle/caption tracks. In the home entertainment market, people with hearing loss enjoy great access to film. All popular films are delivered with user-selectable, on-demand subtitles on TV, disc and online (even pirate sites).
But cinemas could do better. Although subtitle tracks are available for popular films, and included on every copy of the film sent to cinemas, around 99% of UK cinema shows are inaccessible to film fans with hearing loss. Of the 1% that ARE accessible, via subtitles, most are provided mid-week, before 6pm, when most people are attending jobs or in education. Fri/Sat evening accessible shows are practically non-existent.
Recent feedback from thousands of film fans with hearing loss indicates that 96% would attend more if accessible shows were provided at more convenient times.
Doubling or trebling the number of OFF-PEAK subtitled shows may increase opportunities to attend cinemas - without affecting a cinemas profits (off-peak shows are practically empty most days) - but such an increase would not satisfy the needs of most people with hearing loss. Most people would like to see a film of their choosing, at a convenient time that suits (which is often PEAK time).
A cinema promotion such as an ‘Unlimited’ card, that allows as many visits as a customer desires, for a monthly fee, is not suited to a service that is very limited. The average film fan with hearing loss may have only one chance per month to catch a film at a UK cinema. An 'unlimited card' would need to cost a fraction of the current cost to make it worthwhile for film fans with hearing loss.
"Unlimited cards are no use. Imagine you were in a wheelchair. You have bought an annual train pass, but only 2% of trains have disabled ramp facilities, which you need to get on and off the train. So you miss the train - almost every day"
There are many inclusive ways to increase opportunities for people with hearing loss to attend cinemas: Cinemas could provide many accessible, subtitled shows of many films at convenient, peak times. Or, because most cinemas are almost empty mid-week (less than half of available seats are sold), a cinema could provide subtitles on all shows on a particular day of the week. One UK cinema has trialled 'Subtitled Mondays' for a year and found that attendance is not much different than the following day, for regular, non-subtitled shows of the same films. Recently, Mamma Mia 2 and Incredibles 2 were sold out Mon and Tues. Most people that attend the subtitled shows don't have hearing loss - they simply don't mind subtitles. (It helps that the cinema promotes subtitles as a good, positive thing). All shows are inclusive and accessible. All can be enjoyed by people with or without hearing problems.
"To those that are disturbed by accessible subtitled shows: Think of it like this: You pull into a small cinema car park, no spaces, except for a disabled bay, which you can’t use, because you don’t have a disabled badge. So you hang around, wait for a space, or come back later, or tomorrow, or go to another car park. Lots of options. No big deal. But it would be a very big, miserable deal for a wheelchair user if there were NO disabled spaces!"
INCLUSIVE / ADAPTIVE SOLUTIONS TO CINEMA ACCESS
"Inclusion can mean different things to different people. A person with hearing loss may feel included when hearing people join that person at a screening where subtitles are on-screen, for all to see. A hearing person may feel they are being inclusive by providing an adaptive aid that enables the person with hearing loss join them in a regular, non-subtitled show"
'Personal' subtitle/caption adaptive aids - glasses, screens and smartphone apps - exist and are in use in cinemas in the US, Australia and some European countries. Subtitle glasses are available for theatre shows at the National Theatre in London. Some of these solutions have been evaluated by the UK cinema industry. Although all can significantly increase access to the cinema for customers who need subtitling, none fully meets the criteria set out in the key objectives of the UK cinema industry's 'Challenge Fund' detailed above.
US and Australian cinemas have (with the help of human rights laws) transitioned from 'on-screen' subtitles (the current UK method) to subtitle glasses and seat-mounted displays. These 'adaptive aids' enable cinemas to offer a vastly increased choice of accessible shows. Subtitles are invisible to the general audience - only the wearer/user sees them. In theory, with a personal subtitle solution, ALL shows can be accessible. All can be enjoyed by people with or without hearing problems.
The National Theatre in London is currently trialling subtitle glasses, as part of its efforts to reach more people and widen the diversity and range of its theatre audience. It's hoped that the glasses will increase opportunities for people with hearing loss to attend. “This is transformative … many, many more people will be able to enjoy our shows” (Jonathan Suffolk, technical director).
Smartphones can also be personal access solutions, via a variety of free apps. Some European cinemas allow these apps to be used (if dimmed and silent) but as yet, no official infrastructure is in place to synchronise/stream a subtitle track from a cinema server to a phone.
An Italian cinema has utilised smart glasses in conjunction with a smartphone app to display subtitles, to enable its customers with hearing loss to enjoy films.
Most personal adaptive aids can also receive audio description (AD) tracks, via a standard headphone socket, enabling customers with sight loss to use their own, familiar, regular headphones to experience the isolated AD narration track, rather than the current choice of cinema-supplied, over-the-ear headphones (which can block out the 'regular' film soundtrack that's delivered via cinema surround speakers). In 2017 the UK cinema industry tested an audio description app that can also be utilised as a subtitles app.
A robust, stable personal adaptive aid could help reduce the number of scheduling/operational issues that can sometimes occur with 'special/out of the ordinary' shows. If a subtitle track is 'on', all of the time (but can only be seen by customers using a personal device), the chances of a m of staff failing to set it to 'on' for a scheduled show are reduced. Mistakes rarely happen (only a handful of the 1,500+ weekly English-language subtitled shows go wrong), but the consequences of an abruptly-cancelled show can be very serious. Customers that depend on subtitles for their film enjoyment can't just wait for the next show, or come back tomorrow, or next week. They will often have had only ONE chance to enjoy the film on the big screen. They may have travelled far and incurred costs.
The potential reach of personal subtitle solutions is huge. With built-in multi-language features, subtitles could be broadcast in a choice of languages that are popular in the UK. Feedback to YourLocalCinema: "This is not a complaint. Thought you might like to know of our experience attending a subtitled film in Salisbury. Upon arriving, having travelled 21 miles from home, there was a notice on the door stating, "Sorry, 'Theory of Everything' is sold out" ... Unfortunately for us, 93 Spanish language students had booked. Kind regards and thanks for all you do"
A personal 'always on' access solution could bring cinemas in line with home entertainment access levels. They may never be as good as what deaf people are used to on TV/internet - on-screen subtitles, but tech solutions can provide 100% access to all cinemas, all screens, all popular films, all days & times. Eventually, accessible shows could be ubiquitous access facilities - like beeping traffic crossings, audio/text bus/train announcements, disabled toilets/parking spaces, ramps, elevators, wheelchair spaces etc.
"It is hoped that medical science will eventually decrease the amount of younger people with hearing loss. The potential audience for accessible cinema may never be substantial, but it's a paying audience, and its ms expect and deserve to be treat as equals. It may take years, but ultimately, it's this appreciative audience that will fund any 'access' solution, via tickets & popcorn sales"
Film distributors financially support YourLocalCinema, which enables the online promotion of film trailers nationwide in an accessible, subtitled format:
Although subtitle tracks are routinely produced and available for ALL popular films, currently, for the majority of films, trailers screened in cinemas before subtitled shows are NOT subtitled, and therefore NOT accessible. Subtitled trailers ARE produced for many popular films and provided to cinemas. More than 30 have been produced to date.
If ALL cinema trailers were shown with subtitles at scheduled subtitled shows, not only would customers with hearing loss receive an equal service, they could also relax before the show… Every week, at some cinema, somewhere in the UK, a subtitle track for a scheduled subtitled show fails to appear on the screen. When this happens, audience ms (that have paid for and expect a subtitled show) usually notice subtitles are missing as soon as the first words are spoken on screen. (Lips move, but no subtitles appear). This usually results in a frantic search for a m of staff to 'Switch the subtitles on!’ Usually, the film is restarted, the subtitles appear, and customers are satisfied. But sometimes - for whatever reason - the scheduled subtitled show continues to play WITHOUT subtitles, resulting in a very disgruntled customer, a wasted journey, a couple of free cinema passes, but NO other opportunity to catch the film on the big screen.
Ensuring that trailers are shown with subtitles - and linked to the subtitled film about to play - would help to avoid the frustrating uncertainty: 'Will the film be subtitled?' In theory, if the trailer is subtitled, the film will be subtitled. If not, a customer could inform a m of staff, who would have time to resolve the issue before the main feature starts.
Subtitled trailers are produced for many popular films and provided to cinemas. More than 30 have been produced to date.
The YourLocalCinema LISTINGS & AUDIENCE DEVELOPMENT Service
“Accessibility is perhaps not the most exciting area of film, but knowing that a deaf child can follow the latest superhero or animated adventure on the big screen with their friends makes one feel good!”
YourLocalCinema began its audience-development work in 2000. What began as a grassroots, social enterprise effort two decades ago, to enable a profoundly deaf child to socialise at cinemas with his friends, now helps drive 20,000+ people to 500+ cinemas weekly. It began by gathering the views of thousands of supporters of children with hearing loss. A nationwide petition in UK primary schools was organised, to help gauge the size of support for accessible cinema.
Extensive research clearly demonstrates that children of all ages, including pre-school, and those with language-based learning disabilities, can benefit from on-screen same-language subtitles. Subtitles can improve foundational reading and literacy skills, such as phonics, word recognition, vocabulary acquisition, listening comprehension and fluency. Children's films tend to have less challenging vocabulary and are ideal for providing children with the literacy benefits of reading, while listening and watching. Most children's films include songs, and as children like to sing along to songs and are curious to know the song lyrics, reading skills are practiced subconsciously. Subtitled children's films at cinemas can boost literacy skills in a fun and engaging way.
The response to the YourLocalCinema petition was overwhelming. People nationwide expressed their wishes for deaf children in their community to enjoy the cinema experience with their peers. One school, with only 12 deaf pupils, gathered almost 1,500 signatures. The nationwide petition, along with early YourLocalCinema progress reports on accessible titles, shows and audiences, helped the UK film industry to recognise, and begin to cater for film fans with hearing loss. It helped BFI/UKFC research and compile its 2002 'Cinema Access Technologies for people with Sensory Impairments' report, which led directly to the UK's first Cinema Access Scheme.
In 2004, cinemas, film distributors, the BFI, the main cinema tech companies, and the main charities representing people with hearing or sight loss collaborated to financially-support YourLocalCinema's audience-development work. It became the official marketing arm of the Cinema Access Scheme.
Today, YourLocalCinema continues to collaborate with cinemas and distributors to help film fans with hearing loss to enjoy, rather than endure cinema. Most UK cinemas provide regular subtitled shows, and dozens provide subtitled 'kids shows', where families with a deaf or hard of hearing m can participate in inexpensive weekend/school holiday screenings. Many 'kids shows' are filled to capacity, an inclusive mixture of deaf & hearing children, siblings and parents. YourLocalCinema worked with the National Deaf Children's Society (NDCS) to help inform and build an audience for these shows. Customer comment: "Thanks very much to the cinemas for finally including my whole family at the movies! I have a deaf daughter who can now go to the cinema with us. The cinema makes money out of us now, as we spend on films and popcorn and drinks. We never used to bother before, we couldn't leave our deaf kid at home while we go and have fun, could we?"
YourLocalCinema continues to work with primary and secondary schools via film industry-supported group INTO Film, to help promote hundreds of subtitled shows in its annual film festival. Every year hundreds of students with disabilities attend. Information on accessible cinema is included in promotional material for the annual event. Distributed to every school in the UK, this creates mass awareness of access & inclusion amongst young people.
Every week, YourLocalCinema collaborates with almost 100 cinema companies to promote 1,500+ English-language subtitled/captioned shows in 500+ UK & Ireland cinemas. An established, trusted brand, the audience-development agency has been building & growing a unique customer database of film fans with hearing loss for two decades.
YourLocalCinema provides a unique service. Its ‘one click to all accessible shows nearby’ website & app recorded more than a million visits last year. It utilises targeted, localised marketing to promote accessible shows (and trailers) direct to a unique email/social media customer database of tens of thousands of film fans with hearing loss. YourLocalCinema helps drive 20,000+ people to 500+ cinemas weekly, which helps to offset losses that cinemas may incur providing separate, subtitled shows to a niche audience.
Last year, UK film distributors spent £500,000+ producing almost 200 subtitle/caption/narration tracks to enable cinemas to provide accessible shows from release date. More than 1m tickets - £8m+ worth - were issued to 75,000+ English-language subtitled shows. Attendance has tripled over the last decade. To date, an estimated 6m tickets - £35m worth - have been issued.
Financially supported by UK film distributors (via FDA), the award-winning, non-profit YourLocalCinema service is provided for FREE to cinemas. (The UK cinema industry ceased support in 2016).
YourLocalCinema is a non-profit service. To keep costs down and provide best value to its financial supporters, staff are mobile - one full-time (hearing), one part-time (deaf), each equipped with a laptop and smartphone. There are no office/rent/commute costs and website/communications costs are minimal.
Originally the official marketing arm of the UK film industry’s Cinema Access Scheme, the established, trusted YLC service has been building & growing its unique customer database of film fans with hearing loss for decades.
In 2018 there were more than a million admissions to English-language subtitled/captioned shows. £8m+ worth of tickets. Enough to pay the UK’s entire 17,000 cinema industry workers a whole week’s wages. Or 400 annual salaries.
YourLocalCinema cost less than 0.3% of the £8m+ box office it helped generate - a cost equivalent to around 50p per week from each cinema that provides regular captioned shows. Less than 2p from each of the 1m+ tickets issued to captioned shows. One day of annual 'accessible' box office keeps YourLocalCinema running for a year.
The YourLocalCinema service is easy to use and easy to find. It's number one on Google for relevant terms such as ‘subtitled cinema’, beating all cinema websites, as well as such fine luminaries as Amazon, Wikipedia, BBC and YouTube. Film fans with hearing loss can find exactly what they're looking for in a few clicks, rather than trying to navigate a handful of separate, uncoordinated cinema websites, with dozens of clicks, in the hope of finding something that may not even be there.
For people that require subtitles for their film enjoyment, there’s often only one chance to catch a film at the cinema. When it comes to accessible listings, accuracy is very important. Every discrepancy, change or amendment is checked for accuracy before publication on the YourLocalCinema website. Many cinemas/distributors are contacted weekly to verify data. YourLocalCinema works cinema hours - mornings/afternoons/evenings, weekdays/weekends. Most issues - such as listings amendments (due to show cancellations/reschedules etc), or customer requests/complaints - are attended to within an hour.
The YourLocalCinema website & app receive more than a million visits annually. The main UK portal for accessible cinema, it has never been offline, and has never failed to deliver its weekly email newsletter to its subscribers.
YourLocalCinema is very guest-centric and offers a variety of accessible ways for customers with hearing loss to correspond directly, including text messaging, live chat, email and the latest social media outlets - Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp. Excellent customer service with meaningful, engaging correspondence has helped to build trust in the YourLocalCinema brand. Many have been using the service for almost two decades.
Feedback clearly indicates that opportunities to attend accessible shows are very much appreciated by many. Click here for a selection of positive experiences from film fans who we have helped to discover - or rediscover - the joys of cinema-going:
YourLocalCinema has helped to build, grow and support a once under-served audience. It provides a valuable service to the UK film industry by gathering and maintaining up-to-date market intelligence on everything cinema access-related. YourLocalCinema serves and engages with film fans that have hearing loss, gathers access-related audience data, analytics and valuable feedback, to better understand customers needs. Feedback - good and bad - is often in real-time, thanks to customer smartphones.
In 2001, YourLocalCinema became a m of the UK film industry's 'Disability Working Group' (DWG) think-tank, a group of strategic importance in the nurturing & development of audiences for accessible cinema. A strong network of all main cinema companies & film distributors, the main groups that represent disabled people, and others in the field of access, the DWG meets regularly with the aim to make cinema more accessible to people with disabilities. YourLocalCinema has produced many reports for this group, BFI and others, on accessible titles, cinema screenings and audiences. The reports provide a detailed picture of performance, enabling the UK film industry to review almost two decades of progress. This data helps the industry better understand the economic and social context of accessible cinema, helps set and achieve goals and objectives, to aid development of policy and strategy.
YourLocalCinema continues to provide data to UK and international researchers and consultants, to be used in articles and presentations. It has helped film, arts and cultural organisations worldwide to develop access solutions and build audiences. It helped Australian access groups plan and set up a temporary, two-year 'YourLocalCinema.AU' website, as part of a comprehensive program to provide accessible cinema in Australia.
YourLocalCinema has rounded-up and provided participants with sensory loss for, amongst others, the International Disability Film Festival at the BFI Southbank; the Times BFI London Film Festival; A Q&A on access held at BFI Southbank on behalf of Film London; An audio description event for Disney; and focus group attendees for various events/demos with online questionnaires to record feedback.
YourLocalCinema is proud to work with cinemas and film companies to help ensure that people with sensory loss can enjoy the cinema experience. It’s extremely grateful to UK film distributors for financial support. Without it, the service could not continue to help people with disabilities enjoy the cinema experience. You can read about supporters and visit their websites here:
ENGAGING THE AGEING AUDIENCE
This year, YourLocalCinema aims to work closely with groups representing older people and community cinemas nationwide to help welcome our ageing society back to the cinema that they enjoyed earlier in life. To help them socialise and meet new (and old) friends. Watching a film and chatting about issues afterwards can be a useful social activity.
In the UK, more than half of people over 70 live alone. Almost a quarter of a million are socially isolated; they rarely or never leave their home. This can lead to loneliness. And loneliness can bring poor physical and mental health. Hobby and activity clubs can improve the wellbeing of older people and help combat social loneliness. Regular 'movie afternoons' can bring older people - many of whom have lost a lifelong partner - together.
It's estimated that more than ten million people in the UK have some level of hearing loss and about two million have significant sight loss. Almost all people over 60 have some degree of age-related sensory loss. Fact is, with ageing, sensory impairment is inevitable...
The majority of those with hearing loss make use of subtitles/captions for their TV/film enjoyment. More than 90% of those with sight loss can see something - it’s not totally dark. To ensure that no-one would feel left out, to enable older people with hearing or sight loss to enjoy films in a social group, YourLocalCinema would like to help community cinemas to provide accessible screenings, where all films have on-screen captions/subtitles and/or a voice-over narration (both features are included on most popular cinema and home entertainment format titles).
Community cinemas can be more affordable than outings to a local multiplex. Although most cinemas cater very well for older people - providing wheelchair access, elevators, disabled toilets, disabled parking, and for those with hearing or sight loss, captioned/subtitled and narrated (audio described) screenings too - cost is an issue. Group outings can cost too much and can be quite a logistical challenge.
These days many films feature characters and storylines that appeal to an older, more discerning audience - people aged 50-75, who now form the UK's highest spending age group. Many so-called 'new oldies' are wealthier, fitter, more active than previous generations, making the most of their lives and spending their money. Participation in hobby or activity clubs offers one way to improve their wellbeing. And as our population continues to age, this trend - and the opportunity for film screenings - can only increase and broaden.
The demographic balance between young and old is shifting. YourLocalCinema feels that cinema needs to change, to sustain the engagement of a potentially large 'ageing' audience.
"SEE the dialogue! HEAR the action! It's the accessible cinema experience!"
Feedback clearly indicates that opportunities to attend accessible shows are very much appreciated by many. Here's a selection of positive experiences from film fans who we have helped to discover - or rediscover - the joys of cinema-going:
“Ah, Star Wars returns, I can't wait. This new trilogy better have subtitles because I've lost a considerable amount of hearing since the last one! I watched the original in the cinema with my Dad when I was a kid, and watched the later ones with my kid”
“I am nearly totally deaf and need subtitles to watch tv or films. Subtitles at the cinema ... without them I could not have the big screen experience. I love the whole cinema thing; popcorn, fizzy drink, comfy VIP seats and the wow of the big screen! Without subtitled cinema, watching big new films would not be the same! It cannot be duplicated by tv. Thank you for the brilliant experience!”
“Last night I thoroughly enjoyed a film for the first time in my life … Without the audio description explaining what was going on the story, with its many long dialogue-free scenes would have been lost on me. It was absolutely gripping. I was on the edge of my seat! I really felt like I was up there with the characters. It was a wonderful experience”
Much more feedback here: https://www.yourlocalcinema.com/quote.html
YourLocalCinema's twitter feed receives regular 'retweets' from companies/people with a high number of Twitter followers, which helps to publicise accessible cinema far and wide, which leads to many more people visiting the YourLocalCinema website, and signing up for the weekly email/twitter newsletter.
Recent 'retweets': @WarwickADavis (Star Wars actor) “What a brilliant service! Respect to you for taking the time to make cinema accessible to all” (Retweeted to more than 680,000 followers); @cineworld (290,000); @ODEONcinemas (220,000); @BBCFilms (195,000).
Together, email and twitter help YourLocalCinema reach many thousands of film fans each week.
AN AWARD-WINNING SERVICE!
As well as providing an accessible listings service, YourLocalCinema gathers and maintains up-to-date market intelligence on everything cinema access-related, including audience data, analytics and valuable customer feedback & surveys. It has been successful in winning some high-profile awards voted for by the public and its peers in the UK film industry. Winning awards helps to spread awareness of 'accessible' cinema.
The BKSTS 'Samuelson' Award recognises and rewards the efforts & achievements of companies that have embraced technology or enhanced accessibility to ensure that cinema exhibition is available to all people.
The Daily Mail 'People's Choice' Enterprise Award. The event, hosted by the Institute of Directors, recognises people who have turned their ideas into reality. Thousands of Daily Mail newspaper readers voted for the twenty finalists and YourLocalCinema received the most votes overall.
The @diversity European 'Access Culture' Award. Implemented by the European Commission and presented at the EU Culture Forum in Brussels, the awards celebrate innovative ways of using technology to make culture more accessible across Europe. More than 250 projects were submitted.
The Barco 'Innovation in Cinema' Award. Part of the 'Raam Awards', which recognise and reward the efforts & achievements of people working in the UK film industry.
The British Telecom 'Remote Workers' Award honours people who manage to run a successful business without an office, using mobile technology. Judges selected the winner based on the company that demonstrated how remote working had created the greatest positive impact.
Finalist: The National Lottery Awards recognise the difference that lottery-funded projects have made to local communities. YourLocalCinema beat hundreds of projects, with many thousands of votes, to make the finals. The ceremony was broadcast live, primetime, on BBC1, exposing millions of people to YourLocalCinema's audience development work, and accessible cinema in general.
Nominated: Cinema Marketing Campaign of the Year, 2018 Screen Awards. Run by Screen International, the awards recognise excellence in UK film marketing, publicity and brand partnerships, acknowledging the teams and individuals that contribute to the success of the British film industry.
Text message: +44 7931341377
Online Chat: https://tinyurl.com/YLCChat
Phone: 0845 0569824
YouTube subtitled trailers: https://www.yourlocalcinema.com/trailers.html
In 2018, more than a million people attended 75,000+ captioned shows (£8m+ worth of tickets).
Average nationwide attendance to a captioned show: 15 people*. Average ticket cost: £7.22.
(2004: £64,000+ worth of tickets. 35 cinemas / 3,600+ shows / average attendance 4 / ticket cost £4.49).
*Figures based on 2017 survey of cinema staff. Low attendance is expected. A tiny percentage of those under 40 require captions for their film enjoyment. 99% of shows are inaccessible to film fans with hearing loss. Only around 1% are subtitled/captioned. Most are provided mid-week, before 6pm, when most people are attending jobs or education. Fri/Sat evening accessible shows are practically non-existent.
Average ticket cost - UKCA. Mean average nationwide attendance: 400+ cinemas surveyed (mixture of urban/rural/multiplex/chain/independent cinemas).
All cinemas can be inclusive & accessible. All can screen all films on this website with subtitles. Please ask cinemas in your area to welcome customers with hearing loss at convenient days/times!
Accessible, inclusive subtitled shows enable film fans with hearing loss to ENJOY rather than endure cinema. For a few hours, the disabling barrier is removed.
IMPORTANT! This site is updated three times a day, but shows can cancel/change at short notice. Please double check with the actual cinemas website before you plan a visit!
Query? Complaint? Feedback? Click HERE to comment and enter a free draw to win a 2019 Blu-Ray or DVD of your choice!
Accessible shows provide social benefits such as equality, inclusion and community integration. For a few hours, the disabling barrier is removed. There were more than a million admissions to accessible shows last year!
Supported by UK film distributors and BFI. Read about our sponsors HERE