Joe Does the Movies: Accessible movie reviews in Toronto

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Return to Neverland

Seen: 2002.01.23   ¶   Reviewed: 2002.01.24

I committed myself to the ultimate sacrifice of seeing every MoPixed or otherwise accessible picture that plays Toronto. I knew up front this would include gruesome Hollywood fodder (Black Hawk Down, anyone?), uplifting historical untruths (A Beautiful Man, anyone?), and of course kiddie flicks. Yes, dear friends, I committed to sitting through movies for kids. I already did it once (Harry Potter, anyone?), but I knew I’d drawn the short straw when Return to Neverland, alias Peter Pan II, hit town.

I thought I’d get off easy, because it didn’t run with MoPix until week two. But there it was in the listings, and way the fork out in Scarborough. (Take slow bus to subway, go to end of line, transfer to so-called RT, go to Scarborough Centre, walk through parking lot.)

I get there. Ticket-taker tells me it’s in Cinema 8 when I know, from having visited the place before, that Cinema 9 is “equipped.” I ask what up with that. D00d doesn’t know, so over I go to Guest Services. The “playa” there doesn’t know, either, so we call over the manager. But he’s the food manager and knows very little.

Apparently, though, Return to Neverland was not MoPixed; John Q occupied Cinema 9 as if it were a hospital lobby. I started to write a polite note to the general manager when suddenly the food manager came back. Guess what: The equipment had been shifted to Cinema 8 after all.

I tell him that Famous had mentioned that more than one cinema would be “hardwired” so that the display could be switched from one house to another when necessary. Evidently that’s what happened here: One display, two “equipped” cinemas.

All right. So they dig out a reflector and a headset. Thanks be to God: The headset is a receiver with detachable Walkperson headphones!

I find a seat in the front row of the second section, ironically enough in the “wheelchair companion seating.” I keep thinking: Will I have time to go to the can? It’s important to see how title sequences are handled, and I don’t want to miss them.

The display, again, is not on, making me paranoid. I get no sound, not even a hiss, from the headset. The movie starts, but it’s actually a “short”: Pluto’s Fledgling. What could be more boring? The display blinks on for a moment beforehand, then dies again. I sit through Pluto’s pratfalls, continuing to think “Can I get to the can in time?”

Mangling the reflector into position repeatedly, I hear, from over my left shoulder, mumble mumble deaf mumble mumble. The real show starts. There are no descriptions. Captions are running, but I give up hoping to enjoy the full glorious spectacle of opening credits. I trot back to Guest Services to trade in the headset; the playa gives me a clone of the first one, whose batteries actually work.

(The headset cable is too short. You’re expected to wear the receiver, at the end of a nylon loop, around your neck, like a cow with a bell.)

Back I go. No descriptions. Captions are out of sync, and also small and hard to read today. (Must be seat position.) I get used to it quickly and it dawns on me: Oh, my gosh. It’s the captions for Black Hawk Down. (helicopter approaching) was, I think, the dead giveaway.

So let’s recap:

  1. They gave me a dead headset.
  2. There were no descriptions.
  3. Captions presented in a theatre full of children and moms all expecting a Family-rated picture actually transcribed the profane, violent dialogue and sound effects of an Adult Accompaniment feature. (My friend imagined the worst-case scenario thus: “Someone yelling ‘Let’s take that fucker down!’ as Peter soars merrily through the skies.”)

I think we have a problem.

Back I go downstairs. The food manager, who is getting quite familiar with me at this point, contains his shock admirably. He and the projectionist get together in the booth.

I commute between the upstairs cinema and Guest Services three full times, causing many people to notice me. Oh, and did I mention that the second headset they gave me was actually the one for the assistive-listening device? Which should have worked anyway, piping main audio through the headphones, but did not? I am eventually given a third headset, just like the ones at Yonge & Eg, complete with supernova-bright LED.

The food manager assured me that they had now loaded the correct CD into the player. Things should synchronize automatically, the manager thought. (I was not sure of that. I had heard a report from someone watching Harry Potter; a projection malfunction took place, and there was no choice but to rerun the movie from the start, annoying the hell out of everyone. I thought this was because the movie was shown in an “equipped” cinema and the only way to resync captions and descriptions is to take it from the top. I have no confirmation that it actually happened in a MoPix cinema. But I now know that movies are threaded into projection plates; separate reels are not used in mainstream cinemas anymore. It’s possible, then, that the plate forced the rerun from scratch, not the accessibility.)

But there was no change: No descriptions and the wrong captions. I wondered if the system was playing captions from the hard drive, but anyway, where were the descriptions?

The food manager paged the general manager. He and I agreed that the system had better be fixed by the next showing at 2:30. I did, however, look on the bright side: I had done my bit. I had attempted to see Peter Pan II and failed, through no fault of my own.

Can’t wait for Panic Room.

But shall we do another recap?

  1. Staff didn’t know which cinema was “equipped.”
  2. A second cinema had been hardwired for the caption display, but staff had not been properly trained.
  3. It took three attempts before they gave me the right kind of headset that worked (two separate problems).
  4. There were no descriptions.
  5. The wrong captions were shown – catastrophically wrong given the content of the present picture and the captions being displayed.
  6. What should have fixed the problem definitively did not.

One hopes this never happens again.

Postscript: It was later explained that the house was switching between the old DTS player (running off CDs) to a new one (DTS-CSS, running off a hard drive). The problem is allegedly fixed.

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