The Athena Cinema has introduced a new film series focused on providing an accessible theater experience for visitors that features screenings of contemporary independent films.

Starting this weekend and occurring each Saturday in September, the theater will feature a limited one-time-only screening of a contemporary art film. Alongside the films, the theater will create events that are inclusive for all, including for individuals who find traditional films screenings uncomfortable or inaccessible due to the atmosphere.

These screenings will support filmgoers with open captions displayed on the screen and maintain a sensory friendly environment. Screenings known as sensory “friendly” or “sensitive” adjust lighting and sound levels to create a comfortable atmosphere for all patrons, including those on the autism spectrum.

Alexandra Kamody, Athena Cinema Director, said by creating more theatrical experiences built around the ideal of an accessible film and theater-going experience, the cinema is showing its support for people of all abilities.

“The thing we know about open captions is that it is a better experience for many people,” Kamody said. “Not only for those who are deaf, hard of hearing or hearing impaired, but also for individuals who are non-native English speakers, senior citizens and people on the autism spectrum.”

While the Athena offers Captiview captioning devices for closed captions, the devices are prone to technical issues. Unfortunately, cinemas still are unable to depend on film distributors to provide open caption technology for all films and must request specific files for each film in order to be able to offer the open captions technology.

By planning in advance the programming of films that offer open captions, the theater is able to guarantee an inclusive experience.

While some films deal directly with issues concerning accessibility, Kamody explains that the programming wasn’t originally planned to reflect on the topic of accessibility.

“We find a lot of sensory-friendly screenings are planned with children in mind, which is great, but we wanted to offer something different here,” Kamody said. “While booking films, a theme emerged, and we found all the films touched on the topic of accessibility in some way. It was quite beautiful to look at this collection of films and say, ‘What does accessibility mean in a broader sense?’ For some it might be a chance to be heard, for others it might be a chance to be seen.”

The Athena Cinema’s Accessible for All Film Series includes the following films:

Sept. 11: Sound of Metal

Metal drummer Ruben begins to lose his hearing. When a doctor tells him his condition will worsen, he thinks his career and life is over.

Sept. 18: Swan Song

Legendary actor Udo Kier stars as retired hairdresser Pat Pitsenbarger, who escapes the confines of his small-town Sandusky, Ohio nursing home after learning of his former client’s dying wish for him to style her final hairdo.

Sept. 25: Ailey

Alvin Ailey was a trailblazing pioneer who found salvation through dance. Ailey traces the full contours of this brilliant and enigmatic man whose search for the truth in movement resulted in enduring choreography that centers on the Black American experience with grace, strength, and unparalleled beauty.

All shows begin at 2:30 p.m. with tickets costing $5 per screening.

The Athena Cinema partnered with the OHIO’s Performing Art & Film Series, OHIO’s Student Accessibility Services, Athens County Board of Developmental Disabilities and the Athens City Commission on Disabilities for this series.

Accessible for All at the Athena Cinema is made possible in part by state tax dollars allocated by the Ohio Legislature to the Ohio Arts Council (OAC). The OAC is a state agency that funds and supports quality arts experiences to strengthen Ohio communities culturally, educationally and economically.

The Athena Cinema is an auxiliary unit within Ohio University’s College of Fine Arts. It is a nonprofit cultural institution dedicated to creating a wide array of film-going experiences. For more information about the Athena Cinema visit its website.

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