Today is an exciting day.
So you may remember I went to see Ghostbusters with Andrew at the AMC in Manchester and a projectionist told us they don't do audio description because no one ever asks for it
. We complained and got a couple of free tickets and vague platitudes about how Andrew shouldn't have been told that and the manager would look into it -- which weren't as reassuring as they might have been since while I'm sure from her perspective the projectionist shouldn't have said that, this would be because it makes the cinema look bad rather than because it wasn't true. And a manager not knowing anything about audio description -- I'm not expecting technical mastery but I shouldn't know more about what to expect than a cinema manager does.
Anyway, we used one of the free tickets when Debi was here, to go see Finding Dory
; Andrew had had a rough day and wanted a treat, something nice to do while our guest was here. It was a choice between that or Star Trek
, both of which I'd already seen (with audio description, in Bradford Cineworld) so I figured the AD wouldn't work and I didn't care too much.
But of course, we were sure as hell going to try.
Our request for audio description headphones confused the person we first asked (behind the food counter, so understandably this is really not her area) to the point of seeming to terrify her. Much walkie-talkieing ensued. More than once we were asked which film we were seeing. Eventually three people and a clipboard came to tell us "it wasn't advertised with audio description in 2D. It was in 3D." Which made me laugh: surely I can't be the only person who can't watch 3D movies for the same reason I need the audio description: that I'm visually impaired
! Andrew started ranting about it didn't have to be advertised with audio description, because it was a legal requirement
etc. etc....but I dragged him away because it wasn't worth making a fuss and we'd hardly paid anything for this anyway and I'd already seen it and let's just go sit down. So we did.
But honestly, once we did, I surprised myself by how upset I was. The movie still hadn't started yet, and I started tweeting.
I found myself on the verge of tears again, which I hadn't expected. This wasn't a much-anticipated moviegoing experience like it'd been the previous time. I wasn't told "we don't bother because no one asks" this time. But it turns out that it was almost as bad to be talked to like it was my fault that I didn't know to buy tickets for the 3D movie -- as if I would have, anyway! -- rather than the cinema's fault for not providing audio description as a mater of course, which other chains and even independents like HOME manage perfectly fine (HOME have been great about this; I went to something when it first opened where the AD didn't work due to a technical fault and I felt like I ended up being sympathetic to them about it; the guy we spoke to was like "no, this is not acceptable and I'm really sorry"...so I know how much better this could be dealt with!).
So this time, when we got back home, Debi messaged AMC on Facebook about it, Andrew addressed them in tweets, on tumblr, and in a blog post
Debi got a reply, which started
We are very sorry that we couldn’t accommodate you and your family during a recent visit to our cinema. At this present time we have audio description capability in four screens. Film titles and formats rotate around our screens on various days through the week. This is sometimes a combination of 3D and 2D product as this cinema only has the capability to play 3D in four of our available screens.
Which is interesting for several reasons, firstly of which is the amusement inherent in the kind of family Debi and Andrew and I would make. But also because it was more information than we were given either time this actually happened to us by the staff at the cinema. This message also offered to show us ("you and your family", aww) a 2D screening of Finding Dory
with the audio description for free whenever we wanted. Debi didn't bother replying at first, which I agreed with as it still seemed a bit point-missing, still treating this like an isolated customer service problem rather than a systemic issue that visually impaired people (and people with other sensory processing issues who might benefit from audio description; I don't think it's just us!).
I think Andrew got a reply to his tweets too, asking him to take it to DMs, but he wasn't interested in anything that wasn't public. I got the same request, and decided what the hell, I'll play along. I'm glad I did.
The first message I got was this:
Thank you for following back. We are very sorry and would like to apologise about your recent visit and we assure you we are working hard improve our levels of service and accessibility. Firstly, we would like to offer a free screening for you, your friends and family. You can choose the film and we will put everything in place for you.
We can also confirm that we have employed a specialist contractor who will begin installing audio description equipment across all our screens from next week. As this process takes place we would like to invite you to test our systems for free and offer advice to our team here at the cinema in Manchester.
That...seems a bit of a result to me, if I'm honest! I really wasn't expecting much more than a polite telling off (about how they weren't doing anything illegal, I shouldn't expect better, etc) and maybe a couple more freebies that I'm not interested in being thrown our way. (We still have a free ticket from last time; the plan has always been that Andrew would go and use those on his own when he wants to see things I don't.)
Of course immediately "a film of your choice" caught our interest. Debi wanted to know if they had the 1979 Mad Max
and we all laughed -- she'd gone to great lengths to watch it before she saw Mad Max 2
at a festival that weekend, and it hadn't worked out, so that
would have been kind of hilarious. Of course I suggested what my friends always suggest when a cinema's looking for movie selections: Horror Express
! Which miss_s_b
was pretty excited about.
But in the realms of "movies they actually would have, and audio description" (other than Debi telling me when people should kiss, which she was happy to offer), there was an obvious choice.
We're gonna go see Ghostbusters
. Some of us for the first time, some of us for the fourth at least. I'm so excited. It's gonna be awesome.
And it's gonna be tonight!
I wanted it to be when Debi was still up north, having spent last weekend with us she's in Brighouse this week (and handily willing to drive Team Brighouse over to Manchester for it). Since she's part of our family, and all! And since she, along with Andrew, both complained and helped encourage me to complain about this when I just did not have the energy or heart to do so myself, I wanted her to get the reward too.
And then I just messaged a bunch of my friends saying "who wants to see Ghostbusters
for free on Friday" and of course they all do (poor Katie has to work, which is sad, but I don't think anyone else turned the offer down so there's gonna be like fifteen of us!). I'm so excited. Glad I can offer something cool and unusual for my friends, even as I'd gladly swap it for being able to go to the cinema without a fuss like most people can.
And on that subject, I'm at least as excited about the other part of AMC's offer -- first, that they're suddenly getting audio description kitted out in all of their screens (I asked Andrew if there's any chance this is a coincidence or if we've actually made them do this by complaining; I think both are pretty unlikely really but he reckons we've made them do i. Which is a pretty awesome kind of power to have just for complaining about something on the internet!) and that they want me to "test it and advise them."
Which means more free movies, which is fine with me, but also I'm genuinely excited about the "advise" part; more often than not when I'm out anywhere in public I end up with thoughts on how things could or should be better, and usually have no better outlet for them than grumbling to my friends about it. Being able to actually tell someone how something is working and if it could be better, and to have any
hope of actually being listened to, is amazing. These days, if I could have a dream job, that'd be it. All I know about that for now is "once the equipment is up and running, [AMC social-media guy] will be in touch, with more information on how you can be involved with this." So I'll see what if anything that leads to.
But in the meantime, we're gonna get Holtzmanned.