The Hollywood Theatre and movie access

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I talk and write a lot about accessibility and its part in social justice movements. Accessibility is also great for entertainment, news, and just generally being informed and involved. But it’s still so elusive how to get more people and companies on board, especially people who subscribe whole-heartedly to a pull yourself up by your bootstraps mentality. It’s one thing to pull yourself up. It’s another to be denied accessible information and resources, and therefore the boots and bootstraps. I’m more of an interdependence kind of gal myself. To me, it’s about the collective boot. And I think it should come with velcro or a general slip-on style while we’re picking out our shared boot. OK, I’m gonna set aside the boot though and talk about a couple of my favorite things in the world:  captions and audio description!

Here’s a report from Disability Scoop about the new accessibility ruling from the Department of Justice that affects movie theaters. Basically they’re saying that if a movie shows up at a theater with Closed Captioning or Audio Description, theaters have to provide those access features to individual audience members who request it. Theaters also need to advertise that they have the equipment to do it. The ruling goes into effect in January, 2017.

I’d like to see a shift where more content creators are required or even encouraged to make their films accessible. It’s still so few creators who are even considering it. Yes, I know it’s expensive. I caption all my content and have paid for audio description. But if people would consider access to be an integral part of the art instead of some after-market add-on that musses up the aesthetics, then you might budget for it the same as you budget for the graphics, animations, sound design, and all of it. Accessibility doesn’t make things ugly or messy. Access is beautiful, and it grows your audience.

So guess what? As Portlanders, we not only have the distinct benefit of the Portland: Turn On the Captions Now ordinance for places like restaurants and bars and their TVs, but we also have The Hollywood Theatre. The Hollywood has recently installed the technology to display Closed Captions and to broadcast Audio Description to individuals who request either of these. They also have assistive listening technology for patrons who want a volume boost with or without captions. The assistive listening technology won’t work during a talk-back or director’s Q and A after a screening. It only works during the movies, but it is for all movies.

So hey, Hollywood Theatre:  Thank you! Way before the new ruling was even made, they had already purchased and installed their equipment. The Hollywood is in an old building, and it doesn’t have physically accessible bathrooms. They did put in some wheelchair seating spots in the downstairs auditorium, which is awesome. Just be prepared that if you anticipate a bathroom break, you’ll need to use one of the restaurants right nearby. You don’t always get even this much access from smaller businesses. Shoot, even our president-elect doesn’t have a problem with building and maintaining inaccessible properties decades after the ADA passed. Now the issue is making sure the Hollywood brings in films that have the access pieces baked in so we can take advantage of their gear.

If you want more info on accommodations or which movies have access features, please contact them at (503) 493-1128 or

Ready to nerd out on this stuff even more with me?

Go to to find captioned movies and any theaters playing them near you. And for more about content with Audio Description, visit The Audio Description Project.

Check out the Facebook page All Movie Theaters MUST HAVE Captioning for Deaf or the citizen’s advocacy group that I’m excited to be a part of, the Captioning Activism + Community group, CCAC.