Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Post - Athens, OH
The independent newspaper covering campus and community since 1911.
The Post

PHOTO ILLUSTRATION: Kirsten Pribula, a sophomore studying graphic design, watches Fuller House with closed captions Tuesday, March 3, in Baker University Center. Pribula went deaf at a young age and now uses cochlear implants to aid her hearing. 

The Athena Cinema aims to make the theater more accessible, screening films with captions on Mondays

The Athena Cinema is making the theater more accessible by screening films with open captions on Mondays.


Kirsten Pribula’s cochlear implants are usually visible when her hair is pulled back. The implants help her hear a little bit, but despite the stigmas surrounding the implants, they have not “cured” her deafness.

Because Pribula is deaf, she does not frequent movie theaters. Instead, she waits until films come out on DVD so she can use the DVD options to see the subtitles on the screen.

As a new initiative to make the movie-going experience more enjoyable for those who are deaf or hard of hearing, The Athena Cinema, 20 S. Court St., is now showing films with open captions on Mondays.

In theater terminology, open captions differ from closed captions.

In open captioning, the dialogue and important sounds — such as a doorbell or telephone ringing — are written at the bottom of the screen for everyone to see. Closed captions are subtitles only seen by a person who has requested to use a device that displays them.

Though there is not a huge deaf population in Athens, Pribula, a sophomore studying graphic design, said she is really excited about Open Caption Mondays because not all movie theaters provide captions.

"It's really hard to watch movies without captions because it all sounds like gibberish,” she said. “Sometimes when we watch films in the movie theater it’s really hard to read lips because the people move around too much."

For example, the Athena uses a device called the CaptiView Closed Captioning System, Alexandra Kamody, the director of the Athena, said. That device is placed in a cupholder and has a small screen that only the person using it can see.

The Athena only has a few of these devices, so in an effort to make the theater open to a larger population of the deaf and hard of hearing, they started showing films with open captions, Kamody said.  

“Not everybody likes to see the captions, but in an effort to make (the theater) accessible for everyone, this is a chance to see what demand there is for this and ensure that we’re accommodating all of our patrons,” Kamody said.

Pribula said having access to open captions is referred to as “Deaf Gain.” Deaf Gain brings awareness to the deaf community. By using open captions, it allows people to understand why open captions are necessary.

Not every film being screened at the Athena will have open caption capabilities, Kamody said. She added that they are going to do their best to make sure that there is at least one option every week.  

“A lot of studios do not make all the films that they (produce) available with open captions,” she said. “And that’s just an industry limitation right now. We really hope to see that change over the years.”

Kamody said this is a project she’s been working on for years. She has been to some seminars where people have talked about open caption screenings and other innovative and inclusive ideas. After the Athena received some feedback from moviegoers who had difficulties hearing, Kamody “propelled it forward.”

John McCarthy, associate professor of communication sciences and disorders, said every person who is deaf or hard of hearing has a different experience in being able to hear. Some people can hear certain frequencies, so sounds are “cutting in and out,” McCarthy said.

{{tncms-asset app="editorial" id="7bd47be8-f159-11e5-83f0-0b44e9fe59cb"}}

Those who receive cochlear implants, he said, receive help with “frequencies in the speech range.” So while they can hear some speech, listening to music — which movies frequently utilize — is different.

Regarding the Athena’s Open Caption Mondays, McCarthy said everyone can benefit from the open captions.

“An open caption is something that is always there,”  he said. “It’s a potential benefit for everyone. It’s an important step in terms of accessibility and sending a message.”

Pribula said she would love to be able to go to a theater and watch movies. She added that she would attend the Athena for an open caption screening, especially if it were available all the time.  

“We should have the same rights as other people,” she said. “We should be able to see a movie in theaters just like everyone else.”



Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2016-2024 The Post, Athens OH