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A better movie-going experience

Cory Keim, general manager of Keim Theatres, shows the new wireless closed captioning devices for the hearing impaired. Customers at Bison 6 Cinema in Jamestown and Valley Twin Cinema in Valley City who need the technology can use them at any seat by attaching it to the cup holder. New audio description headphones for the visually impaired are also available. John M. Steiner / The Sun

The management of Keim Theatres said new assistive technology is making it possible for more people to enjoy the movie-going experience at Bison 6 Cinema in Jamestown and Valley Twin Cinema in Valley City.

The two theaters now provide wireless closed captioning devices for the hearing impaired patron to use at any seat by attaching it to the cup holder, said Cory Keim, general manager. The theaters also provide audio description headphones for the visually impaired that provide a supplementary soundtrack to describe the visual elements in the film, he said.

"Our hope is that these new advances will dramatically enhance the movie-going experience for our guests," Keim said. "The devices are available for all showtimes, every day by just asking about them at the box office counter."

To accommodate the deaf, hard of hearing, blind or otherwise visually impaired, the U.S. Department of Justice required digital movie theaters to provide closed captioning and audio description devices in January 2017. To be in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act all digital theaters must have the technology in place for use before June 2.

The rule outlines that theaters with two to seven screens must have at least six closed captioning devices. Bison 6 Cinema has six screens and Valley Twin Cinema has two screens, which require six devices at each theater, Keim said.

The Bison 6 is required to have 19 audio description headphones on hand as a theater with 900 to 1,000 seats. The Valley View Cinema with just over 200 seats must have eight sets of headphones.

Lyman Keim, managing director of Keim Theatres, said the closed captioning device has a cover with a deep window to limit the amount of escaping light from the device.

"It doesn't distract the people around you because of the size of the hood," said Lyman Keim, managing director.

So far there have been a few younger patrons who came in with questions about the new technology once they heard about it, Cory Keim said. The devices have already been in use in both Jamestown and Valley City, he said.

"A 16-year-old girl in Valley City was already coming to the movies but now she can actually enjoy it more than she could before," he said.

Mark Coppin, director of assistive technology at the Anne Carlsen Center in Jamestown, said the technology has been around for years on mobile devices, computers and televisions. It was limited to a few theaters until now and this will reduce barriers and provide equity for more people as the movie studios start to include more accessibility options, he said.

"While these technologies are designed for persons with significant sensory impairments, they may eventually benefit many people as these technologies have mainstream benefits as well," Coppin said. "As we age our hearing and vision may deteriorate and these technologies will allow us to still enjoy movies."

The closed caption unit displays movie trivia before the film starts to let the viewer know it's operating correctly, Cory Keim said. There is a subtitle selection button on the box for languages than English that will function as film companies add that option with forthcoming films, he said.

The Keim theaters already had audio headphones in use, he said. Those headphones are obsolete with the new technology, he said.

The new devices were ordered in 2017 but did not arrive until January, he said. The number of digital theaters around the country that ordered them to be compliant creating a waiting time from the manufacturer, he said.

For other accomodations the Keim theaters have wheelchair spaces in the center rows and a section of the concessions counter is lowered for wheelchair access, he said.