Monday, December 10, 2012

Why I'm Not Seeing "The Hobbit" in Theaters

I'm a huge LOTR fan. Like all good fans, I've read the books multiple times, (including the Silmarillion), read countless of Tolkien's other writings, biographies, etc, watched the movies too many times to count, made my own fan film, studied the Elvish language, and watched the progress of the Hobbit since before ROTK was even released.

However, I'm not going to the midnight opening. I'm not even going the next day, or the next week. And it's not just because movie theaters can give me migraine headaches.

It's not even because there isn't a close-captioned version to see.

Most of you know I'm deaf, and absolutely /must/ have subtitles to watch any type of video. (Many thanks to all you YouTube-rs who subtitle your films! Love you guys!). Movie theaters have struggled to provide technology that is both cost effective and accessible for the handicapped without pushing out the non-disabled.

Rear View Captioning was a pain in the neck, sometimes literally. Using a mirror on a stick system that Leonardo da Vinci would have been proud of, it was difficult to adjust properly, and shook annoyingly whenever you shifted in your seat. Forget getting up to go to the bathroom, or letting anyone pass you, it meant readjusting the whole thing, and even then you had to look back and forth between the mirror and the big movie screen. Awful, but better than no captions.

Open Captioning was marvelous. The words were right there on the screen. My family members who were used to captions didn't even notice they were there... however I know people who complain about subtitles and would have avoided those showings.

Both of these instances keep the available watching options limited, as there were few theaters with the space and/or money to arrange/install the necessary features. Usually only one or two movies would play at a given location in a week, and unless you live in a metropolitan area, good luck finding an accessible theater. The closest to me even now is 20 minutes away - beyond that it is 45. When I lived in Fargo? Nothing.

New technology is working to overcome this. It features a headset you wear, that beams the words 'onto the screen'... or so it appears to you. They're displayed inside the goggles. Non-intrusive, and run by an infrared signal that goes through the theater, they can be worn in any movie, at any time. Suddenly the options are limitless.

Or are they?

Take a look at the eyewear we're supposed to wear.

For some people, wearing goggles is no big deal. But for most people with hearing aids, we already are carrying a lot of weight on our ears. Adding something more to that is not an option. I personally have to wear the lightest prescription glasses my eyeglass provider carries, and I still have to let my hearing aids dangle off my ears every now and then to give my ears a rest. (Yes, I do know my hearing aids are hanging out, I put them there!) When I explained the system to my deaf aunt, she was likewise frustrated and annoyed, saying that she hoped they'd go back to open captions which she also preferred.

Likely this will work for some people. The theaters love it, as every theater within driving distance of my house have now implemented it. I now have no choice - no movie, no subtitles, or painful ears and head.

I expect at some point (when my health has improved further so that I'm no longer afraid of migraines) I will give this technology a try, just to be 100% fair. But it's not an experience I'm looking forwards to, and not something I think I would undergo - even for the Hobbit.

Hopefully over time better technology will open options... or DVDs will release at the same time as the theater versions. Movie watching is an ever-evolving scene and who knows what the future will hold?


Cyndi said...

I agree with you 100%. I prefer OC, and am so angry that they've been taken away for these glasses. I don't want to see words right in my vision, I want them to be apart of the screen as they are in my own home.( Plus my ears do get sore from 3D glasses and headphones combined with my hearing aids.) My sister agrees. The glasses are a nice solution for making more films accessible but why take away something that worked? Is having both so terrible? Even my hearing family finds it frustrating for my sister and I. I find it ironic that hearing people complain about OC because it distracts them and makes it hard to watch the movie.. Because its a lot harder for me to understand the other non-OC movies in the theaters than it is for them to ignore words on top on one movie.

Elenatintil said...

So true, Cyndi! I would far rather have to be more picky about scheduling when to watch what movie than to have to use the glasses or nothing!

Slow as it takes, they are listening to us, so let's keep making our voices heard!

Anonymous said...

Elena, thank you for the post. As a hearing person, I would not have considered the difficulty of the weight strain on your and other deaf persons' ears. I have studied ASL for a short period of time and of the languages that I've dabbled in, it is by far my favorite. When I first looked at the picture of the goggles, before I finished the post, I thought you would be upset by the blinder-like sides, because they would obstruct your peripheral vision. Thanks for educating me and others to the issues surrounding this new technology.
~The Evil Baroness