Closed Captions in Movie Theaters: Movie Theater Requirements

Movie theaters are known for their impeccable video quality and surround sound. They create the perfect environment so that each and every audience member can see and hear every detail of the movie perfectly.


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But, that doesn’t account for every audience member. Some deaf and hard-of-hearing movie-goers need more than top-of-the-line audio equipment. For them and others, movie theater closed captions are the best way to enjoy any show.

If you’re wondering what the movie theater closed caption requirements are and whether your local theater is compliant, read our quick guide. We’ll tell you everything you need to know.

Why Movies Need Closed Captions

Closed captions are a text version of the spoken words and other key audio elements in a movie. Not only do they make movies accessible to those who are deaf or hard-of-hearing, they also help others who struggle to understand the speakers. Non-native speakers might use closed captions in movie theaters to keep up with the speed and nuance of spoken dialogue. No matter who is watching, closed captions often provide extra context and help enrich the story for all viewers.

Closed Caption Options in a Movie Theater and ADA Requirements

There are a few ways that your local movie theater can meet the ADA theater requirements, and some equipment is necessary to provide closed captions in theaters. The most common are the closed captioning devices like the mirror, closed caption stands and captioning smart glasses. Here’s what you can expect from each.

1. The Mirror

The mirror is exactly what it sounds like. Anyone who requests closed captions at the movie theater might be provided a small mirror for their cup holder. The captions are projected on the back wall of the theater, backward. The viewer then uses the mirror to read the reflected captions, flipped to the correct orientation, during the movie. It’s helpful to have this option for people who don’t rely on captions but would prefer to have them just in case.

2. Closed Caption Stands

Another option your movie theater might have for closed captions is a closed caption stand. This is an LED display that you can, again, put in your cup holder and adjust however you’d like. During the movie, captions will show on the display. Unfortunately, this technology does have a few drawbacks, including timing. Sometimes the captions can be off and distract more than they help the viewer.

3. Captioning Smart Glasses

Finally, your movie theater might offer smart glasses. These are worn by each individual viewer, which helps with subtlety. The captions are shown at the bottom of the glasses and are timed to the action of the movie. A significant drawback of this option is the addition of glasses and wires to your viewing experience. Some people who already wear glasses might find it difficult to coordinate the two pairs at once.

Learn More About Closed Captions

Get more information about adding closed captions to movies and other video content in our resource library. We provide guides to create your own closed captions or how to turn on closed captioning on your favorite devices.