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March 3, 2005

Visually impaired added to Regal discrimination suit

From: Knoxville News Sentinel, TN - Mar 3, 2005

By Associated Press
March 3, 2005

NEWARK, N.J. - The nation's largest multiplex movie theater company has violated state law by failing to install technology to aid visually impaired moviegoers in New Jersey, the state Attorney General's Office charged Wednesday.

The complaint amends a 2004 filing that alleged Regal Entertainment Group violated New Jersey's anti-discrimination laws by failing to install a specific type of captioning system to aid hearing-impaired patrons.

The amended complaint claims the company also has violated the law by not installing a system that lets blind and visually impaired moviegoers hear narrative descriptions through audio headphones.

The DVS Technical system provides information about key aspects of films, such as action settings and scene changes, according to Attorney General Peter C. Harvey.

"For too long, this area of our popular culture has been virtually closed to the deaf and hard of hearing, the blind and the visually impaired, but we are committed to changing that," Harvey said.

Knoxville-based Regal did not immediately return a call seeking comment Wednesday.

In September 2004, four movie theater chains reached an agreement with the state to install new captioning technology. The four - American Multi-Cinema, Loews Cineplex Theaters, Clearview Cinemas and National Amusements - chose a system known as Rear Window Captioning.

The Attorney General's Office contends Rear Window Captioning and another system known as Open Caption Projection are preferable to the system used by Regal known as Open Captioning.

According to New Jersey Civil Rights Director J. Frank Vespa-Papaleo, the process used in Open Captioning can take weeks or months to be burned onto an individual reel of film, limiting the number of prints that are made available and forcing hearing-impaired moviegoers to wait to see first-run movies.

In contrast, Vespa-Papaleo said, a growing number of first-run movies are compatible with Rear Window Captioning and Open Caption Projection.

Regal owns the Regal Cinemas, United Artists Theatres and Edwards Theatres chains. The company operates 6,273 screens at 558 locations in 40 states - about 18 percent of all indoor screens in the United States. It operates 12 multiplexes in New Jersey, according to its Web site.

Copyright 2005, Associated Press. All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2005 The Knoxville News Sentinel Co. All Rights Reserved.