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Cinema Slammed For Botching 'Avengers' Screening For Deaf People

Village Cinemas is under fire from the deaf community after captions failed at a special screening of 'Avengers: Endgame'.

Around 40 people attended an advertised Opened Caption (OC) screening at the Sunshine cinema in Victoria on Sunday afternoon, only to find the captions were not available -- meaning many in the audience were unable to watch the film.

Alexandra McKenzie, who attended the bungled screening, said they were given complimentary tickets as compensation, but it was not a "sufficient solution" due to the rarity of screenings and long distances travelled.

"We were angry and stressed and we were resigned," McKenzie told 10 daily, describing the incident as "horrifying" and "demeaning".

"It's so normal [for things to go wrong] that we don't really expect different but we certainly get our hopes up. And the fact that we anticipate challenges in accessing something so basic is just not okay."

Tickets for the screening confirmed it was an 'OC' or 'open caption' screening.

avengers ticket
A ticket for the Avengers: Endgame screening, which says 'OC'. Photo: Alisha Marie / Facebook.

McKenzie claimed the manner in which she and her fellow cinema attendees were treated was in breach of disability discrimination legislation.

In a statement, Village Cinemas told 10 daily that the screening was botched due to a regretful "scheduling error".

It confirmed it had compensated the people affected, and had organised a number of open caption sessions this coming weekend.

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It also said it would continue to work with Open Captain Australia -- a volunteer-run organisation working to make cinema accessible -- to "continue to improve the cinema experience for the deaf community".

"Customer experience is our top priority and we hope to welcome back these patrons soon," it said.

McKenzie said Village had requested a meeting with her and the cinema's head office, Sunshine management and Open Captions Australia -- but a time has yet to be set.

However, she's keen for this to be a learning experience for the wider cinema community.

"The deaf community wants to see a long term change, so this isn’t considered normal," McKenzie said.

Rather than organising a boycott or further criticism of the cinema chain, she asked people to “haul your ass” to an OC screening at Village Cinema this weekend.

“I want is to show them that providing accessibility for everyone is a profitable and rewarding venture,” she said.

avengers endgame
The latest Marvel instalment has smashed box office records. Photo: Disney.

One of the options available to the deaf community are Captiview devices, which sit in a cup holder and display captions.

But McKenzie said these rarely work, often skip lines of dialogue, and that cinema staff don't understand how to use them, earning them a nickname 'Craptiview' from the deaf community.

She called for more cinema screenings to include captions, pointing to the now-common practise of social media videos including them.

"[Companies and brands have] managed to capitalise on a means of accessibility and that's so clever," McKenzie said.

"But now, you have people becoming acclimatised to having captions on things and they haven't even realised it, haven't noticed the difference."

"Imagine if most of the screenings in the future were accessible, the majority not the exception. After a few sessions would people really be that bothered by it?"

McKenzie said OC screenings were being held at Village Sunshine on May 3 at 8.15pm and May 5 at 3.30pm; Village Knox and Albury, both at 3pm on May 5; and Village Jam Factory, May 6 at 6.30pm.

Contact the author: abrucesmith@networkten.com.au