Warwick cinema denies group’s request for captioning + poll

A group of 18 deaf and partially deaf patrons were turned down Saturday when they asked Showcase Cinemas Warwick Mall to turn on captioning for a showing of “Beauty and the Beast.”

WARWICK, R.I. — Disheartened, 18 deaf and partially deaf adults and children shuffled out of the Showcase Cinemas Warwick Mall on Saturday without having seen the Disney movie “Beauty and the Beast.”

They had arrived unannounced and asked movie theater manager Dave Kuncio to switch on the open-captioning function embedded in the movie and, in effect, screen the 4:15 p.m. scheduled showing with subtitles for their benefit.

“I can’t do it …,” Kuncio told them. “People are already in there” and have not paid to see a subtitled movie. The ad hoc group of would-be customers wanted to see “Beauty and the Beast” because, according to organizer Tim Riker, 36, of Pawtucket, the movie has a theme of social inclusiveness. “We just want to go out and have fun,” Riker said.But they also had a point to make. They want the General Assembly to enact pending legislation requiring theaters with at least eight screens to accommodate customers who have visual impairments or deafness.

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The legislation would require that any movie being screened that is equipped with open-captioning would have to be shown at least twice weekly with open-captioning visible and, for people who are visually impaired, audio description of the action on the screen.

If deaf or partially deaf patrons constitute a majority in the screening room, and the theater lacks enough “assistive devices” to serve all who need them, the theater would have to turn on open-captioning if requested.

Eight such assistive eyeglasses were available Saturday, and Kuncio offered them. The group declined because there weren’t enough for everybody, they are too big for a child and they are clunky for someone who already wears eyeglasses.

gsmith@providencejournal.com

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