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Deaf Group Sues Movie Theaters

February 4, 2000

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) _ Eight people with hearing impairments are suing to force movie theaters to install devices that would allow deaf people to see closed-captioned films.

The lawsuit, which cites the American with Disabilities Act, names three large national movie theater chains: Regal Cinemas, which is Oregon’s biggest; Century Theatres; and Carmike Cinemas.

The nation’s largest chain, Cinemark, is likely to to be added to the suit soon, attorney Dennis Steinman said.

``Not to be able to go to movies is socially isolating for deaf people,″ said Steinman, who filed the federal class-action lawsuit Thursday. ``Not only are they kept from that aspect of culture and society, they miss out on social interaction; they can’t go out to dinner and a movie with their hearing friends.″

The lawsuit seeks to force movie theaters to install a technology called rear-window captioning, in which a transparent adjustable reflector fits into a seat’s cupholder and picks up captions from a screen at the back of the theater. The person in the seat can read the captions, but the rest of the audience doesn’t see them.

Calls seeking comment from Regal, based in Knoxville, Tenn.; Century, in San Rafael, Calif.; and Carmike, in Columbus, Ga., were not returned.

Combined, the three chains operate more than 7,700 movie screens across the country.

Rear-window captioning is part of a technology called MoPix, already in use in several theaters, that also provides blind customers with a headset through which they can hear descriptions of a film’s characters and scenes.

Steinman estimated it would cost about $15,000 per screen to install MoPix and he would be open to a plan that would let theaters gradually add the service.

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