FilmScene strives for inclusivity by offering captioning program

Iowa City’s independent theater, Film Scene, has introduced captioning in screenings to create a more equitable movie-going experience.

Charles Peckman , News Reporter

A new program at Iowa City’s premier independent theater aims to create a more equitable movie-going experience.

FilmScene, 118 E. College St., has begun implementing open (dialogue and ambiance) and closed (dialogue only) captioning in certain screenings of its movies. Rebecca Fons, the cinema’s program coordinator, said the program began with a conversation she had with Carly Armour of the Council on Disability Awareness.

“One of our core values has been to be as accessible as possible, and next year, when we move into our new building, our facility will have full deaf and hard-of-hearing elements,” Fons said. “This won’t be until August of 2019, so until then, we want to get the most state-of-the-art equipment we can.”

When thinking about a movie-going experience, Fons said, it is often easy to have “out of sight, out of mind” thinking when it comes to accommodations for those with disabilities.

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“The arts are for everyone, events are for everyone, and you can really fill in the rest,” she said. “It is very easy for people who don’t identify as having a disability to enjoy a movie — even me, as someone who is the programming director of FilmScene, I’m always thinking about how we can be equitable. Having someone like Carly come and tell us what the community needs makes it obvious that this is something we need to do.”

Fons said information about FilmScene’s caption showings can be found at its website. Tristen Ives, a member of the Bijou Film Board, said she is glad to see captioning incorporated at FilmScene.

“The closed-caption program is to get FilmScene and Bijou on track to be more inclusive toward individuals with hearing disabilities,” she said. “We firmly believe in everyone experiencing cinema comfortably, and implementing these screenings is a step in the right direction to say, ‘We see you and want you in our theater.’ Let’s make it happen.”

Ives said she has received positive reactions from across the Iowa City community.

“As far as feedback goes, every person I have talked to about it in FilmScene, whether they would benefit from the program or not, has been very positive about it,” she said. “It’s honestly something every movie theater should have.”

Bijou marketing director Emily Stagman said programs such as this should be implemented at theaters nationwide.

“The Bijou Film Board strives to support our community to the fullest extent possible,” Stagman said. “In this vein, it is wonderful to see local businesses who share Bijou and FilmScene’s dedication to achieving these goals. Businesses going the extra mile to make sure everyone can enjoy the gifts our city has to offer are plentiful.”

Stagman said students and community members alike can reap the benefits of these screenings.

“These screenings help make film more accessible for both deaf and hard-of-hearing University of Iowa students as well as members of the local Iowa City and neighboring communities who may be deaf or hard-of-hearing,” Stagman said.