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Caption Center News

The Motion Picture Access Project (MoPix): Making Movie Theaters Accessible to Disabled Audiences

Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), left, and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), right, take on powerful Sith Lord Darth Maul (Ray Park) in a fierce lightsaber fight in Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.
Jedi Qui-Gon Jinn (Liam Neeson), left, and his apprentice Obi-Wan Kenobi (Ewan McGregor), right, take on powerful Sith Lord Darth Maul (Ray Park) in a fierce lightsaber fight in Star Wars: Episode I The Phantom Menace.

The Media Access Division of WGBH-- The Caption Center, Descriptive Video Service®® and the CPB/WGBH National Center for Accessible Media (NCAM)-- is spearheading efforts to make movie theaters accessible to the nation's 34 million deaf, hard-of-hearing, blind and visually impaired movie fans. The project's goal is to make every showing of a film accessible from the first day the film opens.

We've developed two innovative technologies: the Rear Window® Captioning System (RWC, for deaf and hard-of-hearing people) and DVS® Theatrical® (for blind and visually impaired users). These technologies, collectively referred to as the MoPix System, are permanently installed at 50 first-run and specialty theaters nationwide (including IMAX theaters and Disney theme parks; see complete list below). Negotiations with additional theaters and theater chains are ongoing.

How It Works
The Rear Window Captioning System (developed by WGBH and inventor Rufus Butler Seder) displays reversed captions on a light-emitting diode (LED) text display mounted in the rear of the theater. Deaf and hard-of-hearing patrons use transparent acrylic panels attached to their seats to reflect the captions so that they appear superimposed on the movie screen. The reflective panels are portable and adjustable, allowing the caption user to sit anywhere in the theater.

DVS Theatrical delivers descriptive narration via infrared or FM listening systems, enabling blind and visually impaired moviegoers to hear descriptive narration about key visual elements such as actions, settings and scene changes.

Early activities of the Motion Picture Access Project were funded by a grant from the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, a division of the U.S. Department of Education. Research and development are guided by disabled consumers and representatives of the motion picture industry, including Digital Theater Systems, General Cinema Theaters, Boston Light & Sound, Inc., Trans-Lux Corporation, the International Theater Equipment Association, the National Association of Theater Owners and the Motion Picture Association of America.

For its efforts to make movie theaters accessible to all moviegoers, WGBH received the 1995 Ken Mason Inter-Society Award and the 1999 Excellence in Access Award from the Association of Access Engineering Specialists.

First-run films made accessible via the MoPix Project thus far include:

  • The Jackal (Universal Studios)
  • Titanic (Paramount Pictures Corp.)
  • The Mask of Zorro (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
  • 8MM (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
  • Entrapment (20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
  • Star Wars: Episode 1 The Phantom Menace (20th Century Fox Film Corp.)
  • Big Daddy (Sony Pictures Entertainment)
  • Random Hearts (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

Slated to be closed captioned and described for winter '99-'00 release:

  • Toy Story 2* (Buena Vista)
  • The Green Mile* (Warner Bros.)
  • Stuart Little (Sony Pictures Entertainment)

*These films will be closed captioned only

A partial list of accessible large-format films:

  • Cosmic Voyage
  • Everest
  • Island of the Sharks
  • The Living Sea
  • The Magic of Flight
  • The Nutcracker
  • Special Effects
  • Stormchasers
  • T. Rex
  • Whales
  • Wildfire: Feel the Heat
  • Wolves

MoPix systems are currently installed at these first-run and specialty theaters.
Always call ahead to confirm that there is a closed-captioned and described film playing in an equipped theater before making plans to attend. Check the MoPix Web site ( or contact WGBH (617 300-3400 v, -2489 TTY) to learn about new installations and MoPixed releases.

Caption Services Description Services NCAM