Film Distributors Association

Reproduced with
kind permission from

FDA - Film Distributors'
Yearbook 08




Subtitles (ST) and Audio description (AD)




From indecipherable gobbledygook
to a fantastic experience

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, traces the path to today’s still rising level of provision and introduces some feedback indicating the difference that accessible cinema makes to the lives of those affected.


horiontal rule

Jan 2008

The cinema industry’s disability working group, formed in 1999, investigates ways to improve access for those with a hearing or visual impairment, bringing together exhibitors, distributors, trade bodies, suppliers and groups representing disabled people.

In 2001 DTS, and later Dolby, introduced digital subtitle/audio description systems. These enabled sensory impaired people to enjoy the cinema experience by synchronising a subtitle and description track with the film. By the end of that year, some UK film distributors had started to provide subtitles and audio description, and systems had been loaned to six cinemas for trials.

Now fast forward to today, when more than 260 cinemas (now more than 300 - Ed) – have a stand-alone subtitle/audio description system, and most put on accessible shows regularly. Most popular theatrical releases are routinely subtitled and described – more than 650 films to date (now more than 700 - Ed) . Every month, around 1,300 screenings (now around 2,000 - Ed) with English subtitles take place UK-wide, while top titles such as Ratatouille, Pirates of the Caribbean, the Harry Potters and Casino Royale each had more than 500 subtitled performances. National Schools Film Week in October 2007 included 250 subtitled and audio described shows (the 2008 event included 470 shows - Ed)

The growing number of accessible sites and attendees to accessible shows encouraged distributors to produce yet more titles with subtitles/description. Some distributors now try to ensure that all their releases are made accessible in this way. More titles in turn encouraged exhibitors to make greater use of their systems and to schedule subtitled performances at more convenient times.

The UK Film Council’s specifications for the digital screen network require that facilities for subtitles and audio description are built in. To date, only a handful of digitally released films screened on the DSN have incorporated subtitles and audio description (now many more - Ed) . But once distributors start including subtitle/description files on their digital film files, accessible screenings will become even more commonplace.



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

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