May 24, 2002
Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones Released with Access Features for Deaf and Blind FansLucasfilm Ltd., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation, and the Media Access Group at WGBH, are pleased to announce that Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones is available with closed captions and descriptive narration in select theaters equipped with Rear Window Captioning and DVS Theatrical (known collectively as MoPix or Motion Picture Access). Rear Window Captioning and DVS Theatrical were developed by WGBH, Boston's public broadcaster, to make first-run and specialty films accessible from the date they open and during regular showtimes, for the nation's 36 million movie fans with hearing or vision loss, as well as their, families and friends. Funding for captions and descriptions for Star Wars: Episode II -- Attack of the Clones is provided by Lucasfilm Ltd.
When Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace was released in theaters in the summer of 1999 with captions and descriptions, WGBH heard from theater chain executives and from patrons that many people traveled hours to experience the film in a theater equipped with these access systems. In 1999, there were a handful of equipped first-run auditoriums in the U.S. Today, there are 40 equipped auditoriums in the U.S. and Canada, and more are in the works.
Participating theater chains include AMC, Famous Players, Loews Cineplex, Mann, and National Amusements Theatres. In addition to Twentieth Century Fox, studios which release films with access features which benefit deaf, hard of hearing, blind and visually impaired audiences include Sony Pictures, Buena Vista Pictures, DreamWorks Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures and Universal Pictures.
WGBH's Motion Picture Access efforts began in the early '90s after years work making television and videos accessible and after repeated requests from movie fans with vision or hearing loss to make theaters accessible. After technology development and focus group testing, and with the input of consumers, the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO), the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Hollywood studios and individual theater chains, Rear Window Captioning and DVS Theatrical emerged as the closed caption and description technologies most preferred by the industry and the audience.
Recent feedback sent to WGBH from consumers who have enjoyed equal access to first-run films provides a testament to the enjoyment and cultural connection closed captioning and description of films provides.
Alex Valdez from Southern California wrote, "My family and I make the drive from Orange County to Los Angeles to see films at the theatres which have description equipment. For films like Star Wars: Episode II it's worth traveling out of our way just to be a part of the excitement and know what the rest of the world is talking about. Description allows me to understand what the rest of the audience can see and gives me the independence to go to the movies whenever I want. We'd be able to go to movies much more often if we had the same access closer to our home."
Kathy Cartier, from the Boston area writes, "My 12 year old daughter, who is deaf, and I have enjoyed being able to go the theater to see movies rather than having to wait for the home video to access the closed captioning. Now that this wonderful service has been offered, I would hate to have to go back to my daughter being excluded from the fun afforded the hearing community in going to the movies with friends to enjoy a film."
How it WorksThe patented 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.
DVS Theatrical delivers descriptive narration via infrared or FM listening systems, enabling moviegoers who are blind and visually impaired to hear the descriptive narration on headsets without disturbing other audience members. The descriptions provide narrated information-- during pauses in dialog-- about key visual elements such as actions, settings, and scene changes, making movies more meaningful to people who are visually impaired.
The Media Access Group at WGBH has offices in Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and includes Descriptive Video Service, which has made television, film and video more enjoyable to viewers who are blind or visually impaired since 1990, and The Caption Center- the world's first captioning agency- founded in 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 http://access.wgbh.org.
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. For more information visit http://www.wgbh.org.
ContactMary Watkins, Media Access Group at WGBH