May 4, 2004
U.S. District Court Approves Movie Captioning Settlement Agreement
WGBH's Rear Window® Captioning to be Installed in 12 D.C.-area Theaters
Boston, MA. Movie theaters in the Greater Washington, D.C., area will become more accessible to moviegoers who are deaf or hard of hearing due to the settlement of a class action lawsuit, the Court announced on Friday, April 30, 2004. Closed-caption movie technology invented by Boston public broadcaster WGBH has been designated as the accepted solution by all parties to the case.
In April 2000, three plaintiffs who are deaf brought action against two theater chains, Loews Cineplex and AMC Theatres, alleging that a lack of captioning was a violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). In November 2001, the Court certified the matter as a class action and negotiations began in earnest to find a solution that met the needs of both sides of the case.
In December of 2003, recognizing that, "Rear Window® Captioning was an existing cost-efficient technology that would allow deaf persons to attend first run movies without fundamentally altering the nature of movies or placing an undue burden upon Defendants," a proposed settlement agreement was filed.
Rear Window Captioning (RWC), is a theatrical closed caption system developed by Boston public broadcaster WGBH. RWC enables access to movies as of the first day a film debuts, and for all subsequent showings in equipped theaters. More than 70 films are slated to be closed captioned this year, including the highly anticipated blockbusters "Shrek 2," "Spider-Man 2," and "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban."
Larry Goldberg, director of the Media Access Group at WGBH said, "This is a great step forward in equal access for people with disabilities. The magic of movie-going is undeniable, and we at WGBH are thrilled that the system we created has been recognized as the best possible solution for the Greater Washington area. The Court joins Hollywood studios, theater chains, and deaf and hard-of-hearing moviegoers in accepting that RWC can improve the quality of people's lives."
Rear Window CaptioningThe Rear Window Captioning System displays reversed captions on a light-emitting diode (LED) text display which is mounted in the rear of a theater. Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons use transparent acrylic panels attached to their seats to reflect the captions so that they appear superimposed on the movie screen. The reflective panels are portable and adjustable, enabling the caption user to sit anywhere in the theater. The Rear Window System has been patented by WGBH and Rufus Butler Seder of Boston, Mass.
Judge Gladys Kessler, in approving the settlement, said, "The parties decided that the provision of RWC would best serve the class's needs given that RWC is the closed captioning system with the most available movies, positive user reviews, movie studio acceptance, and the ability to make any showing of a movie in an RWC-equipped theater available to class members."
Rear Window Captioning, and its companion technology that makes theater and films accessible to blind audiences-- DVS Theatrical®-- are collectively known as the Motion Picture Access (or MoPix) system. MoPix is the brainchild of the Media Access Group at WGBH, the pioneer in making television accessible to audiences with sensory disabilities (captioning in 1972, descriptive narration for television and video in 1990). The first MoPix system was installed in Sherman Oaks, CA in November 1997. Today there are more than 120 installations of the systems in theaters across the U.S. and Canada. The systems are also installed in IMAX theaters, national park visitor centers and attractions at Disney theme parks. More information about MoPix, including the full list of equipped theaters, the schedule of current and upcoming MoPixed movie titles, and a FAQ are available at www.mopix.org.
AMC Theaters currently has 53 MoPix installations across the U.S., including a system at its Springfield Mall location outside of D.C. Loews has two equipped locations, both in California.
The settlement stipulates that the RWC system will be available in the following D.C. area locations:
AMC Mazza Galleria 7, D.C.
AMC Union Station, D.C.
Loews Wisconsin Avenue 6, D.C.
Loews Georgetown 14 AMC City Place 10, Silver Spring, MD
Loews Centerpark 8, Laurel, MD
Loews Rio 18, Gaithersburg, MD (installation complete)
Loews Wheaton Plaza 11, Silver Spring, MD
AMC Hoffman Center 22, Alexandria, VA
AMC Potomac Mills 15, Woodbridge, VA (installation complete)
AMC Springfield 10, Springfield VA (installation complete prior to suit)
Loews Cineplex Odeon Fairfax Square, Tysons Corner, VA
The settlement also requires any new theaters built by Loews and AMC in the geographic area covered by the settlement have at least one auditorium equipped with RWC.
About the Media Access GroupThe Media Access Group at WGBH is a nonprofit service with offices in Boston, Los Angeles and New York. The Group includes DVS, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to audiences who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, and The Caption Center-- the world's first captioning agency-- which has made audiovisual media accessible to audiences who are deaf or hard-of-hearing since 1972. The third branch of the Media Access Group, the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media, is a research, development and advocacy entity that works to make existing and emerging technologies accessible to all audiences. Members of the Group's collective staff represent the leading resources and experts in their fields. For more information about access services, visit the Media Access Group Web site or call 617-300-3600 (voice and TTY).
About WGBHWGBH Boston is America's preeminent public broadcasting producer. More than one-third of PBS's prime-time lineup and companion Web content as well as many public radio favorites are produced by WGBH. Its best-known productions include NOVA, Frontline, American Experience, Antiques Roadshow, ExxonMobil Masterpiece Theatre, This Old House, Arthur, and Zoom on PBS and The World and Sound & Spirit on public radio. WGBH also is a pioneer in educational multimedia and in technologies and services that make media accessible to people with disabilities. Since its establishment in 1951, WGBH has been recognized with hundreds of honors, including Emmys, Peabodys, duPont-Columbia Awards-- even two Oscars.
Natonal Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)
phone: 617 300-3700 voice
617 300-2489 TTY