Get your popcorn kids, because there is a wild ride of regulations coming your way in theaters all across the nation!
There will be tears, there will be federal registers, there will be frustrated theater owners, and best of all, there will be that super professional team of crime fighting heroes that we all love – the Department of Justice!
On Friday, Attorney General Eric Holder signed a proposal to amend Title III of the Americans with Disabilities Act in order to force movie theaters to provide access to closed captioning and audio description services to those who are hearing or visually impaired.
(Photo: Getty Images)
Theaters would have six months from the publication of the final rule to comply with the edict, costing them tens of millions of dollars per year in compliance costs. Why?
“To require movie theaters to have the capability to exhibit movies with closed movie captioning and audio description… and to ensure that theaters have staff available who can provide information to patrons about the use of these services.”
What, you thought you could run your business like you wanted to and make choices about your investments on your own? Ha! Simpleton, this is America.
The constitutionality of the ADA aside, conservatives and perhaps a few lonely souls on the left will react negatively as the federal government shoves its nose into the private movie theaters across the land. We will talk about how the private sector and the free market are superior, but these arguments, despite their veracity, are often too vague and too impersonal.
In this April 23, 2014 photo, Amber Galloway Gallego, 37, a sign language instructor at Houston Community College signs "Houston" in Houston. Gallego, 37, is a sign language instructor at HCC who specializes in interpreting music. She signs to make concerts accessible to the deaf. (AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Marie D. De Jesus)
To demonstrate the incredible superiority of the free market and the private sector over the federal government, here are a few ideas relating to this specific case:
First, let’s review the process of the free market and capitalism for this instance.
If a theater doesn’t have any access or capability to show a movie for the hearing or visually impaired, then they lose out on the money that would be spent by those with particular patrons. If the theater believes that the possible increase of income justifies the upgrades, then they will do so as an investment. The expected future revenue has to justify the immediate expense, it’s that simple.
But the interesting thing about the free market is that humans are the ones who move it this way and that, and humans can be a funny creature at times. Decisions on where to spend money and make investments don’t always follow a simple economic calculation.
Emotions and principles often play a significant role in those decisions, and a theater owner can capitalize on this truth. While the investment in these devices might not pay off in the future in direct return, it will pay off in other ways such as good will in the community.
Dr. Nancy Young, of the pediatric otolaryngology division at Children's Memorial Hospital, examines 9-year-old Clara's hearing aids. (Photo: AP/Martha Irvine)
The theater loudly trumpets their desire to be fully accessible to anyone with a hearing or visual handicap, the public sees them favorably and perhaps goes to that theater rather than a different one to reward such kindness and inclusiveness. That’s a win-win for everyone without government involvement.
Perhaps you’d like this idea better, though:
Someone in the community, who feels passionately about helping those with disabilities, could start a charity drive to raise money to purchase the devices needed for the disabled movie goers. They could even partner up with a local theater who is anxious to build good will and get the theater to match the funds raised or donate a significant sum.
The people who help raise money feel great about doing something good. The theater gets good publicity and a shot of good will in the community. Those with disabilities get to enjoy the movies and experience the outpouring of care from their local community. Once again, a win-win for everyone with no government involved.
But maybe you’d prefer this idea:
Is there a college in the area of this hypothetical theater? Do they offer American Sign Language classes? What if the theater offers those students a chance to volunteer at the movies to do some good and to take care of any community service requirements.
(Image source: AP/Nati Harnik)
The theater could offer free tickets to anyone who is hearing impaired, they get a personal sign language translator for the entire movie, the student gets practice, community service time and the chance to feel great about helping out. Everyone wins.
Does that college have any drama classes? The theater could very easily hold a screening of any upcoming movies the night before release and invite local drama students to come see the new movies ahead of time. The students would watch the movie and record what was happening using verbal descriptions about the events, facial expressions or whatever else would give people a true sense of what was happening.
Once again, free tickets to anyone who is visually impaired and you get a freshly recorded description to enhance your movie experience. Inexpensive playback devices could easily be used, or you could have the person download the file using their phone and voila, problem solved. They get a free movie, the student gets credit and that good feeling of charity, the theater looks good and again, it’s a win for everyone.
But I’m not done.
An entrepreneurial person might be inclined to create an app that solves this whole problem. You start by working with movie studios to get a copy of the film or a screening of the film ahead of release.
For the hearing impaired, you create a transcript of the movie and necessary audio events. For the visually impaired, there are plenty of voice actors who would be anxious to get their name out there and give a description of the movie. Who knows, maybe even an actor or the director from that very movie would want to lend a voice.
Anyway, when your phone hooks into the theater Wi-Fi and verifies its location, the app downloads the captions or audio descriptions for the movie you want to see and you’re set to go. The information that was downloaded is deleted from the phone 30 minutes after the movie is scheduled to end to protect against unauthorized reuse.
Don’t have a smart phone? Easy. I’m sure that the theater could convince people to donate older smart phones that are no longer in use but still have Wi-Fi connectivity. Perhaps even Apple or Google would be happy to donate a couple devices as a show of good will.
The possibilities are so numerous and so good, and that’s the point.
With the free market and capitalism, you aren’t bound by the restrictions and one-size-fits-all mentality of a federal government. Creative solutions will be found and they will differ. Through trial and error, we can learn which solution works best. With the federal government? None of that exists in the wide brush of federal regulations.
This epic battle between the monolithic federal government and the beauty and creativity of the free market has been called! The winner? The free market, every time.
For other articles and writings by Darrell, please visit the Milk Crate.
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