Jonathan Melville: Cinemas need to spell out screenings

Forest Whitaker in The Butler, subtitled version. Pic: Comp
Forest Whitaker in The Butler, subtitled version. Pic: Comp
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IT took me longer than planned to see The Wolf of Wall Street, but on Sunday I finally made it along to a screening at Cineworld. Nothing particularly interesting there, except for the fact that within moments I realised I’d chosen the wrong version of the film.

It soon became clear that this was the subtitled screening - as the name suggests, all of the film’s dialogue, song lyrics and sound effects were written along the bottom of the screen.

After ten minutes or so I got caught up in the story and forgot they were there. On leaving the cinema I had a look at the programme times and found that The Wolf of Wall Street has just one subtitled screening per week.

Although I wouldn’t have chosen to sit through them, subtitles are a great idea, a service that that makes cinemagoing a viable proposition for those with hearing loss. I’m just not convinced one screening offers much choice to deaf viewers, though there are half a dozen other cinemas around Edinburgh that offer subtitles. The problem is they also show the films at awkward times.

There’s a dedicated website over at that gives an indication of the subtitled films available each week, including The Lego Movie and Grudge Match, but it seems that even when they are programmed they can be changed at the last minute.

New technology is being looked at by many cinemas, with subtitles available on the lenses of special glasses or on monitors attached to chairs, but nothing beats watching a film on the big screen.

With multiple screens at their disposal, perhaps the bigger chains should consider offering more peak-time subtitled films each week. Unless they try them, they’ll never know how popular they could be.


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