A brief background:
I have a hearing loss and cannot watch any form of television with some sort of captioning to help me along. It’s nearly impossible to lipread 2-dimensional faces. It IS impossible to lipread voices coming off screen. And I sure haven’t developed X-ray vision that allows me to lipread through the back of someone’s head. Not to mention those wonderful animated films…lipread a cartoon character? In my dreams… Captioning is a necessity for me to enjoy movies in an capacity.
A year ago, AMC theaters stopped offering any form of captioned movies in their theaters. Local groups began working with AMC to bring these captioned movies back. After many emails, technological incompatibilities, trials, tribulations and multitudes of frustration, captioned films have finally began appearing in several AMC theaters in the area again.
The Big Event
After a year long absence from seeing a movie in a movie theater, Mat and I decided to take the plunge. Saturday night, we went to see Rango at AMC Town Center 20. We had three days and two time slots per day in which to choose from to see the movie (Yes I know how limited that sounds, but that’s what we have to work with). We chose Saturday at 9:35p.m. Mat calls the theater earlier in the afternoon to confirm that they were really playing a captioned version of Rango at that time on that day, which they were.
I’m a bit excited about going as AMC has new captioning technology in their theaters. It’s supposed to be better than what they had a year ago. I have only seen pictures, but am eager to see it work. And I love Johnny Depp (who doesn’t??) and I’m curious to see if he’s still adorable as an animated lizard or chameleon or whatever he was supposed to be. So off we go.
We buy our tickets for the captioned film and go in to the Customer Service desk to request the necessary equipment. A very young female employee loitering around the desk has no clue what we are talking about. She runs off to find someone who does. She comes back with an equally young male employee who proceeds to whip out some headphone sets. I sigh, shake my head, and again request the captioning box equipment. I mime what it’s supposed to look like. They poke around in cupboards a few more minutes and finally produce the captioning viewer. When they do finally find it, I note that it’s the only one I see in that cupboard. I hope no one else shows up and asks for the same thing.
“Is this what you want?” the boy asks. He has no clue what it is, what it does, or even if it’s charged. I turn it on and it works. I thank them and we head for the theater.
Once seated, I get to inspect the new device a little closer. It’s based off the old one and sits in your cup holder. It has a wire rod that extends up to about head-level and hold a small box. It’s much sturdier than the old ones and doesn’t fall over. You can bend the rod part so it’s positioned the way you want. Inside the box is a screen that shows the type, about 3 lines at a time. When you flip it on it says “Welcome to AMC 20.” I notice the USB port on the side of the box. This is how the unit gets its charge. It obviously wasn’t plugged in when we received it. I hope it lasts for 2 hours.
We sit through 20 minutes of previews, and finally, the movie starts! The screen goes black, then declares:
[Mariachi band plays] and off we go! The captions are great! A bit small, and sometimes a bit fast, but they are there! I can follow every word. And all the accents that Rango does, the captions tell me what he’s doing. I’m thrilled!!
30 minutes into the film, the caption viewer goes black. Characters on the screen are still talking, but there’s no captions. I immediately assume the box has died. But after flipping the switch off then on, it starts right up with the welcome screen and then goes black again. *sigh*
Mat offers to go talk to someone, takes the device with him, and leaves the theater. He returns awhile later, says they are going to try to fix it, but if they can’t they’ll refund our money. He had to track down a security guard who then called a manager. She said she’d call someone to see if they could fix it, then didn’t pick up the phone. Mat stands there a few more minutes waiting, and finally asks her if she’s going to call someone. She picks up the phone. His overall impression was they didn’t really know what they were doing and were just going through the motions for show.
I’m fuming. I didn’t come all this way to see only 30 minutes of Rango. After a year of no movie theaters. Grrr….
10 minutes later, nothing has changed. The captions still aren’t working. I’m pissed. There’s tons of stuff occurring on screen and I have no clue what they are saying. So I look at Mat, and we leave.
We return to the customer service desk where the young girl, the security guard, and the manager are all laughing and having a great time. The manager, who doesn’t stop smiling, looks at us and says, “Oh it’s still not working? I’m sorry. Let me have your receipt.”
I hand it over and ask, “It couldn’t be fixed? Can I have the name of someone so I can make sure it’s fixed?”
And she replies quite unconcerned, “Oh we’ll have the tech guy fix it tomorrow.”
She hands me my refund and two free movie passes. “Have a nice night!” And turns away.
I wanted to smack her upside the head. Scream at her a little and say “I only waited a year for this!” But I didn’t. She didn’t get it. It was plainly obvious that no one working there had any clue how this equipment worked, nor did they care. They probably didn’t even know it had been missing. Awareness is always the first step. And though I’m thoroughly disgusted with the entire night (except for that exalting 30 minutes), I know I can’t blame just one person. And, the manager did what she should have: she refunded money AND gave free passes. Really, what normal, irate customer could ask for more?
Instead of a full-blown ‘F,’ I will give AMC a ‘D.’ They sure deserve it.