Sunday, May 2, 2010

Harkins Theatres and the ADA: Closed Captions Required

As the Americans with Disabilities Act nears its 20th anniversary, a new legal decision has been reached against one of my local movie theaters for violation of it. Harkins Theaters, which does business in Arizona and four other states, was recently sued for failure to accommodate people who cannot hear or see the movies they play.

Check out the (easy to read) PDF explaining the decision here. According to the summary on Hearing Loss Law, open captions are probably not covered under the ADA because they are visible to the entire theater and "may fundamentally alter the movie-going experience for others. But closed-captioning displays captions only to people who want to see them." The next stop for the case is the Arizona district court, where Harkins can try to prove that providing these captions will be an "undue burden" to their operation.

The one and only captioned movie I've ever seen in a theater was at Harkins. It was with my mom, and the movie was the remake of The Stepford Wives. Since then, I've only seen movies without captions, which limits the types of movies I can see (ones without a lot of accents or a lot of background noise). Harkins has consistently disappointed me with the number of movies they have available with captioning, and they're almost never the movies I'd want to see. On their "open captioned" page, as of May 2nd, 2010, they list only one movie available: Green Zone, and it's only available in one theater, an hour away, in Phoenix.

Living in Arizona, Harkins Theatres are ubiquitous. I've heard about their giving to charity all my life. According to their website, "Over the past 20 years, Harkins Theatres has helped set a new standard for charitable giving in the Western U.S. [...] Harkins Theatres has worked with dozens of groups, including Boys & Girls Clubs in Metro Phoenix, Oklahoma City and Denver, March of Dimes, Big Brothers Big Sisters, The Alzheimer's Association, Phoenix Children's Hospital, The Children's Center in Oklahoma City, The Humane Society and many more." It's always seemed like a double standard that they are so willing to give of their money to others, but not to invest in opportunities to allow those in their community to enjoy the entertainment they provide. Hopefully this ruling will help them "see the light."

(via Deafness Blog)


  1. Theatre emerged from myth , ritual, and ceremony. Early societies perceived connections between certain actions performed by the group or leaders in the group and the desired results of the whole society. These actions moved from habit, to tradition, and then on to ceremony and ritual.

  2. I have a head injury and work at the Colorado Harkins and they do not respect or know anything about the ADA law which quite suprise me

  3. I currently am employed at a movie theater where my position as a projectionist was very recently, given to a "computer". Since digital projection has taken over, the ability to OFFER these types of services has been basically been taken from theaters & now is in the hands of the movies' distributors. Not all releases have the digital formatting to cater to the disabled for theaters even show! There really is quite a bit of "fine tuning" to this digital movement that remains to done. I think theater chains are having so much difficulty just getting the digitals to get on-screen consistently, that everything else has been "postponed" indefinitely. Which, is extremely unfortunate.


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