IM this article to a friend!

July 9, 2004

Finally, big-screen movies for the deaf

From: Finally, big-screen movies for the deaf

Willow Knolls theater offers open captions for hearing-impaired

July 9, 2004
of the Journal Star

PEORIA - You could have a big-screen television, surround sound, a state-of-the-art DVD player and all the microwave popcorn you can stomach.

Chances are, though, that when you sit down to watch a film, being at home still won't compare to going out to the movies.

That movie theater experience - the massive silver screen, the cushy chairs, even the sticky floors - will be available locally to a few more people than before. Willow Knolls 14, the Northwest Peoria multiplex owned by Goodrich Quality Theaters, now offers subtitles on certain mainstream, English-language films to benefit patrons who are deaf or hearing impaired.

"We thought there's definitely a market for people that's not being reached," said Chris Dungan, Willow Knolls' general manager. "There are people who are hard of hearing or deaf that could now be a part of the theater atmosphere and still enjoy the show."

The service, described as open captioning, transcribes dialogue into writing at the bottom of the screen, similar to the way foreign languages are translated into English in films like "The Passion of the Christ." The sound still is on, allowing patrons who can hear to do so at normal movie-theater levels.

Though the service won't appear on all the theaters' films, Willow Knolls plans to use open captioning on at least one title per week, with multiple showings of that film daily. That would make Willow Knolls the only area theater to offer open captioning seven days a week, according to Dungan.

George Kerasotes Corp. Theatres offers open captioning at some of its Illinois locations, but not at its theaters in Peoria, Sunnyland and Pekin, according to its Web site. And some theaters, including newly opened Grand Prairie 18, offer listening devices like earphones for people who are hard of hearing but not completely deaf.

This weekend's open captioning offering at Willow Knolls is "The Stepford Wives," a recently released comedy about a town of men trying to domesticate their wives. Dungan did not know as of Wednesday how long the film would remain at Willow Knolls with open captioning; he'll determine which title or titles utilize the service on a week-to-week basis.

Tammy Helm is an interpreter referral coordinator and member of the deaf services team for the Central Illinois Center for Independent Living. She said she's thrilled that Willow Knolls would offer open captioning so routinely, especially on first-run movies like "The Stepford Wives."

"It's not old movies revisited," she said. "It's new movies, and that's why we're so excited about it."

People from throughout central Illinois plan to attend this weekend's showings, Helm said. The center plans to co-sponsor a special screening with the Illinois Telecommunications Access Corp. at 6:45 p.m. Saturday. The two organizations will give away up to 50 free tickets to hearing-impaired individuals, although 30 or so already have been nabbed, she said.

To request tickets to Saturday's showing, call the center at 682-3500 or 682-3567. Willow Knolls will show the open-caption version of "The Stepford Wives" beginning today. For showtimes, call 692-5955.

Copyright © 2004, The Peoria Journal Star Inc., Peoria, Illinois U.S.A. All rights reserved.