Editorial: Regal Entertainment commended for making movies more accessible

Jun. 06, 2013 @ 11:01 PM

Here is a story that makes you feel good about corporate America and the need to try to reach all people who want to enjoy what you have to offer. Regal Entertainment Group is installing new equipment in its theaters that will help people with vision or hearing problems enjoy the movies the rest of us already enjoy.

This summer Regal, which is headquartered in Knoxville, will begin providing eyeglasses that use holographic technology to project closed-captioning at about 6,000 screens across the country. CEO Randy Smith said the technology is the closest thing to complete access for sight- and hearing-impaired patrons the industry has ever had. He has extra incentive to make it so. His 23-year-old son, Ryan, is deaf.

“For the first time since the talkies, the deaf and blind can go see any feature at any show time at any theater that is outfitted with this type of technology,” Smith told the News Sentinel. The glasses weigh three ounces and can be adjusted so the viewer can set the distance to the subtitles. The captions appear to float in front of the view in the direct line of sight to the screen. The system also includes headsets for hearing impaired people who don’t wear hearing aids.

Smith said his son loved movies when he was growing up, but quit going to the theater because of difficulty understanding. When the big movies came out, he would have to wait months until DVDs with captions were released. Students from Tennessee School of the Deaf also tried out the technology.

“When you see a couple of busloads of kids signing ‘I love you’ because they got to see a movie, it certainly tore at my heartstrings,” Smith said. Regal is spending $12 million to make the glasses available at 520 theaters. They cost about four times as much as seat-mounted screens used elsewhere.

Thanks, Regal, for expanding the enjoyment of the movie experience so everybody can be part of the audience as well. It’s a sizable investment at the theaters. But so rewarding.