June 2019 iNews

Thousands of deaf children could miss out enjoying Toy Story 4 on the big screen because more than half of cinemas are not providing subtitles – despite the film featuring a deaf child wearing a cochlear implant. According to figures from Your Local Cinema, of the 688 cinemas showing Toy Story 4 in its opening week (21-27 June), just 301 offered performances with subtitles. Opportunities were still very limited for deaf children and their families, with those 301 cinemas offering just 477 subtitled screenings of the film between them, a tiny fraction of the tens of thousands of performances across the UK this week. 

toy2

Woody and Buzz meet new characters Ducky and Bunny (voiced by Jordan Peele and Keegan-Michael Key) in Toy Story 4.

In addition, many subtitled screenings took place at times which made it difficult for working families with school age children to attend, and most cinemas also only had one subtitled showing, offering little choice to deaf cinema-goers.

toy3The National Deaf Children’s Society fears that deaf children will be excluded by the lack of subtitled screenings. Helen Cable, who leads the charity’s work with children and young people, said: “It’s appalling that deaf children aren’t being offered the chance to enjoy the magic of the movies like every other child. Imagine what it must feel like when all your friends in the playground are talking about a film, but you can’t go and see it yourself. It’s easy for cinemas to provide subtitles, but the majority have decided not to and it will mean thousands of deaf children are excluded. Cinemas across the UK need to do so much more to let deaf children access these films. The technology exists, so it’s time UK cinema chains started taking this issue seriously and gave all deaf children the chance to enjoy the defining films of their childhood.”

toy4Duncan Milne, from Aberdeen, whose partner Fiona and children Ailsa, 7, and Fergus, 4, are all deaf, said: “We went to see Toy Story 4 as a family and it was great to see a kid with a cochlear implant in it, but it’s frustrating to realise that many deaf people won’t be able to see it because there are so few subtitled showings. One time we had to travel late one night to a different city to see a film we were told would be subtitled, only to find it wasn’t. We complained and were told the screening had been moved and had already been shown at 4pm that day. I find that it’s near impossible to find subtitled screenings of films at sensible times. The cinemas must think that deaf people don’t work or have families by some of the timings. Hearing people can just pop out to the cinema and see the film they want, but deaf people don’t have that luxury. We have to jump through hoops just to find a screening we can all enjoy as a family. It shouldn’t be this way.”

The news comes after a study from the National Deaf Children’s Society revealed deaf children are only half as likely to go to the cinema as their hearing friends. As a result, the charity is calling on all cinemas to embrace new technology and offer multiple showings with subtitles, making the film accessible to deaf people of all ages.

toy5The Society has been inundated with complaints on its Facebook page about the lack of subtitled films across the UK. Laura James said: “I went to see Aladdin recently and in the whole of Leeds and Bradford, there was one subtitled viewing in two weeks!” Jamie Pennycott said: “Our local Cineworld proudly touts how inclusive it is, as it had four subtitled showings of Toy Story 4 this week. Unfortunately all of them were after 9.30pm on a school-night (which is obviously an ideal time to show a family film!?!?!).”

Kristin Harvey wrote: “This is my pet hate. It’s so frustrating that our local Odeon cinema did one subtitled showing in the first week at 11am on a Tuesday when most people likely to watch it are at work or school. This happens ALL THE TIME. It’s a token gesture to tick a box and then I’m sure they’ll then say it’s not used (of course it’s not at that time!!!) it’s so frustrating.”

Cineworld, Vue and Odeon have all been approached for comment.

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