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Jamaica theater installs system to benefit blind, deaf

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"You see a movie and then you go out after and talk about it," Gordon said, describing the allure of visiting a theater for a new release.Gordon, though, has trouble hearing and going to the movies can be a frustrating experience.That could all change, however, with the recent installation of new technology designed to improve the movie experience for blind and hearing-impaired moviegoers at Jamaica Multiplex Cinemas on Jamaica Avenue.National Amusements, the company that operates the complex, unveiled a Rear Window Captioning (RWS) and DVS Theatrical System in one of its theaters last Thursday.The RWS system, developed in the late 1990s, allows movie captions to be displayed on a transparent screen that sits directly in front of the moviegoer. The captions run backwards on an electronic ticker on the back wall of the theater and are captured by a special screen, which sits in the seat's cup holder, extending up in front of the viewer. After watching 10 minutes of the Steve Martin comedy "Cheaper By the Dozen 2," Gordon, who lives in Manhattan and is a New York coordinator for Self Help for Hard of Hearing People, said he was impressed. With the captions directly in front of him, he said, the action was easy to follow."It's very important for me to hear and understand what's happening," Gordon said. "It's fantastic."Mike Sidell, of Kew Gardens Hills, also enjoyed the experience. Sidell was born legally blind and took advantage of the DVS Theatrical System - a headset that provides a descriptive play-by-play of what's happening in a movie during pauses in dialogue."The pregnant woman takes the stage." "A man with thick eyebrows poses victoriously with his children." These and other scene-setting phrases come through the headphones and give a person with limited vision a better idea what's happening in a given scene."It's very useful," said Sidell, the secretary of the Queens Independent Living Center. "It's a nice warm voice."The RWS and DVS systems will be available in Theater 11 at the Jamaica Multiplex. Brian Callaghan, director of communications for National Amusements, said that most big releases are compatible with the technology and that the multiplex would try to always have such a film in Theater 11.

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