Accessible Cinema in Australia

On 18 May 2010 the latest digital technology, audio description and captioning devices were demonstrated by the four major cinema chains: Hoyts, Village Cinemas, Event Cinemas (Greater Union, Birch Carroll and Coyle), and Reading Cinemas.

During the demonstration the cinema chains put forward a proposal outlining goals and targets for the future roll-out of accessible technology (the Cinema Access Implementation Plan).  Recognising the need to ensure people with disability were consulted in this process, and to provide advice and assistance to the cinema industry, the cinema chains also proposed that an Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG) be convened.

Cinema Access Implementation Plan

The Cinema Access Implementation Plan (the Plan), launched on 17 July 2010, has assisted the cinema chains to introduce accessible cinema technology, ensuring a reduction in the number of people with disability being excluded from the mainstream social environment.

The goals outlined in the Plan included:

  • Captions and audio description to be available in at least one screen in every one of the 132 cinema complexes run by Hoyts, Village Cinemas, Event Cinemas, and Reading Cinemas by the end of 2014. 
  • Captions and audio description to be available in:
    • one screen for every complex with 6 or less screens;
    • two screens for every complex with 7 to 12 screens;
    • three screens for every complex with 13 or more screens.

This equates to captions and audio description being provided at 242 screens in 132 complexes by the end of 2014.

  • Captions and audio description to be available at every session of a movie where the screen is caption and audio description equipped. For example, an initial roll-out of 10% of screens would result in 840 shows per week of closed captioning and audio description content (i.e. 24 screens at 35 sessions per week).

The timetable for achieving these goals was:

  • By the end of 2010, access to be provided in 24 screens (10% of target).
  • By the end of 2011, access will be provided in 73 screens (30% of target).
  • By the end of 2012, access will be provided in 145 screens (60% of target).
  • By the end of 2013, access will be provided in 194 screens (80% of target).
  • By the end of 2014, access will be provided in 242 screens (100% of target).

In December 2012 the four cinema chains won the Business Award category of the Australian Human Rights Awards 2012. The award recognises businesses that have made a commitment to the promotion and advancement of human rights and/or human rights principles in the Australian community under the banner of corporate social responsibility.

Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG)

The ACAG, which convened from July 2010 until July 2013, included representatives from the following organisations:

  • Australian Federation of Disability Organisations
  • Blind Citizens Australia
  • Deaf Australia Inc
  • Deafness Forum of Australia
  • Vision Australia
  • Action on Cinema Access
  • Arts Access Australia
  • Media Access Australia
  • Australian Human Rights Commission
  • Event Cinemas  (Greater Union, Birch Carroll and Coyle)
  • Hoyts Cinemas
  • Reading Cinemas
  • Village Cinemas
  • Motion Picture Distributors Association of Australia
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of Communications

Functions of ACAG included, but were not limited to:

  • Providing advice and assistance to cinemas to facilitate timely implementation of accessible technology.
  • Providing feedback on proposed technology solutions and evaluating developments in technology.
  • Providing advice and assistance on specific promotional and communication issues around advertising of accessible sessions, including ensuring the accessibility of information to audiences who are Deaf or hearing impaired, blind or vision impaired.
  • Providing feedback on the provision of accessible movies to encourage implementation of agreed minimum standards of service and communications across all cinemas.
  • Providing advice on the development of appropriate channels for complaints/problems to be addressed and resolved quickly and efficiently.
  • Assisting in the development, review and distribution of accessible cinema training material for staff within accessible cinemas.

Accessible Cinema Advisory Group (ACAG) Communiqués

ACAG released Communiqués to provide information on progress against the Plan:

Question and Answers

A Questions and Answers (Q&A) document has been developed that provides answers to key questions about audio description, closed captioning and accessible cinemas.

Additional information on captioning and audio description is provided by Media Access Australia.

Your Feedback

Feedback about your accessible cinema experience may be sent to accessible.cinema@dss.gov.au. Matters relating to a particular cinema should be directed to that cinema in the first instance.

Content Updated: 13 November 2013