This January is set to see changes to closed captioning regulations for all movie theaters screening digital movies in the United States.

Here at ZOO we’re all for making movies enjoyable for everyone including those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or with low-vision. Here’s the low-down on how movie theaters will need to comply.

What are the new closed captioning regulations?

From January 17, 2017, all movie theaters in the United States will need to provide closed captioning and audio description on all movies shown in digital format.

Theaters must also offer a minimum number of captioning and description devices, with the number increasing according to the number of screens at each venue. These handy devices enhance and amplify audio, as well as providing closed captioning, or showing narration of the action on screen. The new regulations also mean that movie theaters need to advertise the availability of accessibility options, and must have a minimum number of staff members on-site to locate and operate any of the equipment.

Theaters that currently show digital movies must meet the regulations by June 2, 2018. Although theaters that only screen analog movies are exempt, any theaters that convert from an analog to a digital projection system before the ruling must meet these requirements by December 2, 2018 or within 6 months of the installation of a digital system.

Why are closed captioning regulations changing?

These regulations come hand-in-hand with an amendment to the Americans with Disabilities Act which is in place to ensure equal viewing opportunities for everyone, including those who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or low-vision. Not only does this ruling avoid discrimination, it could increase your box office figures – particularly since over 20 percent of Americans report some form of hearing loss and over 23.7 million American adults have a visual impairment.

Who is exempt from these new regulations?

Athough statistics from the National Association of Theater Owners (NATO) show that 98 percent of indoor movie theaters in the U.S. show digital movies – and therefore must comply with these regulations – exceptions to this ruling at this time include:

  • Public places that do not show movies for a fee or as a primary means for their business such as museums, hotels, cruise ships and other public accommodations.
  • Drive-in theaters and outdoor cinemas.

Contact ZOO for closed captioning

Get in touch to find out how ZOO can help you guarantee that your movie content is compliant with these new regulations or for more information visit the ADA website.