The WGBH National Center for Accessible Media
The Media Access Group at WGBH

MoPix® Motion Picture Access

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Press Release:

Harry Potter Comes to Life for Deaf and Blind Fans

Film Will Debut with Closed Captions and Descriptive Narration in Select U.S. and Canadian Theatres

November 12, 2001

Boston, MA — One of the most eagerly anticipated films in years will be accessible from the day it debuts to deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind, and visually impaired moviegoers thanks to a collaboration between U.S. and Canadian theater chains, Warner Bros. Pictures and the Media Access Group at Boston public broadcaster WGBH.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone will play with both closed captions and descriptive narration available for the entire run of the film in theaters equipped with Rear Window® Captioning and DVS Theatrical®, innovative systems which make films accessible to millions of movie fans with hearing or vision loss in the U.S. and Canada.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, rated PG, opening Friday, November 16 in approximately 3,500 theaters across the U.S. and Canada, is based on the first installment of the multimillion-selling Harry Potter series of books written by J.K. Rowling. The film adaptation -- written by Steve Kloves and directed by Chris Columbus -- stars Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint as well as film and stage veterans Richard Harris, Maggie Smith and Robbie Coltrane.

The special effects which bring the magic of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry to the big screen are especially impressive, making the description all the more vital to Potter fans with vision loss. The literary sensation generated by each successive release of a new Potter book has been shared among all fans equally, as the Braille versions of the books were released simultaneously, a virtually unprecedented occurrence.

Rear Window and DVS Theatrical systems, developed by the Media Access Group at WGBH Boston, the world's premiere organization developing access solutions to all forms of mass media, are currently installed in selected General Cinema, Gulf States and Loews theaters in Los Angeles, Boston, Chicago, Atlanta, Seattle, Philadelphia, Baltimore, New York City, Clifton (NJ), Springfield, VA (near D.C.), New Orleans and Milwaukee. Famous Players, Canada's largest theater chain, will install five of these systems throughout Ontario-- the first outside of the United States-- to coincide with the debut of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone.

Past films made accessible day and date of release via these access systems include Titanic, Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace, Stuart Little, Dinosaur, The Patriot, Pearl Harbor, Monsters, Inc, and dozens more. In addition to Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, upcoming films to be released with closed captions and descriptions include Spy Game, Ali, Road to Perdition and The Panic Room. For a complete list of theaters, to learn more about the systems, and to sign up to receive updates which include accessible films, locations and showtimes, visit, or e-mail

About the Systems

DVS Theatrical delivers descriptive narration via infrared or FM listening systems, enabling blind and visually impaired moviegoers to hear the descriptions on headsets without disturbing other audience members. The descriptions provide narrated information about key visual elements such as actions, settings, and scene changes, making movies more meaningful to people with vision loss.

The 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. The Rear Window System was co-developed by WGBH and Rufus Butler Seder of Boston, Mass.

These technologies, which were developed as part of WGBH's Motion Picture Access efforts, are also available in Disney Theme Parks, IMAX and OMNIMAX theaters and at National Park Service visitor centers.

About the Media Access Group at WGBH

Captioning for "Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone" was provided by The Caption Center at WGBH (est. 1972), the world's first and most experienced captioning agency. The descriptions were created by WGBH's Emmy award-winning Descriptive Video Service®, (DVS® est. 1990) which pioneered video description for television, home video, large-format films and DVD. The Caption Center, Descriptive Video Service and the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media-- a research, development and public policy advocacy organization-- make up the Media Access Group at WGBH. For more information, visit

About WGBH

WGBH 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

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