Film Distributors Association

Reproduced with
kind permission from

FDA - Film Distributors'
Yearbook 09


Jan 2009

Nothing quite like the feeling of film

The UK leads the world in access to cinemas for people with sensory impairments. Your Local Cinema .com, the one-stop shop for UK accessible cinema, sponsored by FDA and other industry bodies, presents an update on a success story of which the whole industry should be proud


The stats look impressive.

Over the course of this decade, accessible shows have become a regular service in many UK cinemas. At any one time, most if not all of the top ten films are available in accessible versions. In 2008, an average of 1,800 subtitled screenings took place each month (up from 1,300 in 2007).

Most available films are shown with subtitles more than 100 times, but the most popular titles, such as Mamma Mia! and Quantum of Solace, have around 1,000 subtitled performances. By January 2009, 316 cinemas – more than 40% of the estate, touching all parts of the UK – had one or more screen digitally equipped to present accessible shows.

But, important as they are, the stats don't convey the emotional truth.

Most people take for granted the possibility of cinemagoing, however frequently they actually visit. Without subtitles and audio description, people with impaired (or no) hearing and sight can feel disenfranchised from the cinema. The transformation in the provision of (digital) subtitled and audio described releases has enriched the quality of life for those who have attended the screenings, resonating far longer than the couple of hours of the film itself.

Here is a selection of recent feedback indicating the real difference that accessible cinema has made to the lives of some UK citizens:


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"I love subtitled cinema! Without it I haven't a hope of enjoying the big-screen experience. I am profoundly deafened and use a cochlear implant. Have you ever tried lip-reading animated characters? Or listening to speech in a thunderstorm? Chances are, there will be comments you'll miss. For someone like me, however, without subtitles, I might just as well not bother. All the witticisms? Forget it, didn't catch them. Let alone the dialogue that carries the narrative along. I will never forget my first subtitled screenings: Shrek and Harry Potter. Wow! At last, I was able to watch the latest movies at the same time as everyone else, not ages down the line when they'd all moved on to something else! So please, please, keep the subtitled films coming. Deaf people enjoy the same films as everyone else – if they have the opportunity."



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"I know quite a few people who, like me, have become disabled in the prime of their lives. I served in Iraq, came home last year with permanent damage to my hearing. I can still enjoy music, it's just not as clear as it used to be. I find I now read a lot of song lyrics! Never really bothered before.

Same with films. I can still enjoy them with a little 'assistance'. In this case, subtitles. I only go to the cinema now if the film is subtitled. Thankfully most are these days."



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"I gave up attending films because I was so frustrated not being able to understand what the stories were about. I resigned myself to waiting for the film to appear on DVD or TV.

Then this fantastic technology (subtitles) came to open the world of entertainment for people like me. I can now enjoy films on equal par with hearing people. I am able to share my passionate conversation with my work colleagues and I even recommend films they should go and see."



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"As the only deaf member of a family of six, I grew up feeling very isolated when it came to a family outing to the cinema. I put up with it until I was fourteen, then decided there was no point in me being there. I just couldn't follow what was going on, it was more frustrating than enjoyable. A few years went by and I resigned myself to the fact that my movie watching would be limited to DVD. Then last year a few cinemas in nearby towns installed subtitle equipment. I can't explain what a difference this has made to me. I now have a social life! Almost every week there is something I fancy – with subtitles.

I'm a bit too old to participate in a family outing to the cinema now, but I have some good friends who are happy to wait for the subtitled show to appear so I can join them."



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"Subtitled cinema is fantastic because I can watch, cry and laugh with my friends when watching a film. There's no 'What was that?' 'What did she say?' It's fabulous. I know what's being talked about when discussing the film afterwards."



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"Subtitles at the cinema mean I can enjoy, not endure, the movie. With subtitles I can get lost in the movie, rather than the movie being lost on me. Going to the cinema without subtitles for me would be like a short-sighted person going to watch a movie without their glasses!"



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"I had taken my 9 year-old daughter, who is blind, to see a film without audio description and described it to her myself. This, as you can imagine, is very draining and not exactly a perfect alternative. She was keen to see the film again with audio description so she went a second time. She thoroughly enjoyed it and it was far more relaxing for me. Life is difficult enough for a blind child and their family, they have to make a big effort just to get out of the house and interact with other people."



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"Audio described cinema has made me want to go to the cinema again. It's like someone has finally turned the light on."



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Click HERE for a many more quotes and reports from sensory impaired people who have discovered - or rediscovered - the joys of cinemagoing thanks to subtitles and audio description...

Please add YOUR own quote or report!


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Film Distributors Association

Thanks to the Film Distributors' Association
for permission to use the article.

FDA publishes an annual Yearbook, offering a selection of data on the previous year's cinemagoing in the UK, courtesy of Nielsen EDI www.nielsenedi.com, together with illustrated articles on a range of generic topics affecting film distribution.

The current FDA Yearbook 2008 includes: Detailed review of UK cinemagoing in 2007 with data courtesy of Nielsen EDI, Round-up of developments in the fight against film and copyright theft, New series of articles on industry topics and more. To order a free copy of the FDA Yearbook, email info@fda.uk.net. Copies subject to availability.

More related news/media items HERE


Accessible cinema: www.yourlocalcinema.com