You're 'Aving a Lean

IMG_0769Did you know that on the same day that the big four cinemas responded to questions asked of them in relation to their application for exemption to Disability Discrimination Complaints Hoyts released their profit figures? Last year Hoyts generated box office takings of $1.1billion dollars. Revenue for Hoyts from this turnover was $400 million.

Here in Australia the Cinema Industry is bucking world trends. It’s profits are increasing. Yet still they think that providing .03% access for deaf and vision impaired customers is good enough. As my cockney grandfather would say – YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN (You have to be joking.)

In defending their application for exemption the cinema industry went as far as saying that the lack of growth in cinema access was our fault. Yes! Apparently they provide the access but we don’t go to the movies. Average attendance is 12. This apparently shows a lack of demand on our part.

Forget the fact that we only have one movie to choose from. Forget the fact we have limited times to choose from and only at certain cinemas. Forget the fact that we might not even like the movie that is captioned. Forget the fact that we may have to travel considerable distance to get to the one cinema where the film is showing and at considerable expense. Forget the fact that if you are not deaf or vision impaired you can attend multiple sessions at multiple venues. It’s our fault because we cannot plan our lives around the access the Cinemas are willing to provide. OUR FAULT! Bad us! YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN!

And if it is not our fault, it’s everyone else’s fault. It’s our advocacy organisations’ fault because they advised and agreed with the cinema Industry that .03% was progress. They agreed that spending .00125% of the cinema industry’s profits to make a venue accessible is generous and fair. It’s the advocacy organisations’ fault that this is happening because it was from the advice of the advocates that the Cinema Industry developed their proposal. The cinema industry will have you believe that they offered what they did because it was the advice that they had received. YOU’RE ‘AVING A LEAN!

And then, of course, 3 to 4 million Australians who have a hearing loss and a probable 5 million associates do not represent a significant market worth investing in. Yet Hoyts show no less than 16 Bollywood movies a week at selected cinemas throughout Australia and at multiple time slots. The Indian population of Australia numbers just 239 000. (Source: Living in Australia.)

They even advertise three Asian movies that are shown in Melbourne and Sydney. These movies are marketed extensively on their website. Yet nowhere on the Hoyts website do they encourage the deaf to attend captioned sessions even though the market is tenfold bigger. Yes they are most definitely ‘AVING A LEAN.

The Cinemas waxed lyrical about how they were losing their market share. They claim that home theatres and video pirates are making people stay at home to watch movies. They say that this is costing them $18.2 billion a year worldwide. Yet statistics show that the average Australian attended the cinema almost four times last year. A total of 80 million tickets were sold in Australia. That ranked Australia 13th in the world in terms of attendance. Per capita Australia fared even better. They ranked fifth in the world. A drop in attendance – what drop in attendance? A drop in profits? – not bloody likely. They are ‘AVING A BLOODY LEAN I tell ya!

The Cinemas are really fond of spouting figures. It’s going to cost them $500 000 to make 35 cinemas accessible. Let me see now – 80 million attendees spending an average of around 20 bucks every time they go to the movies (food, drinks etc),that’s $1.6 billion. $500 000 is such a small figure in comparison that it’s laughable. If they are so worried about the cost why not put a levy on tickets? If they charged 20 cents per ticket to cover access costs they would get an extra $16 million to subsidize the access needs. YET they cry poor – MUUUHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAHHAHAHA … if they lean any more the Tower of Pisa will fall over!

In all of their calculations they have not even put forward a figure as to the profit they will get if they provide REAL access for the deaf and vision impaired people of Australia. They have no market analysis, nothing! Yet they are willing to invest in 3D technology. Technology that is largely obsolete for all but a few special movies like Avatar. What is more, 3D movies are largely considered to be little more than a fad. The need to wear cardboard glasses puts people off after the novelty has worn off. 3D movies are considered a risky venture yet cinemas all the world over are prepared to invest billions in this technology. (source:

In the same breath the cinema industry in Australia will tell you that $500 000 is a sign of their undying commitment to providing access. In their response to the Australian Human Rights Commissions questions they reiterated their commitment on nearly every page! MUHAHAHAHAHAHAHA – OH DEAR! OH DEAR! I have tears in my eyes and not just from all this mirth.

In the article “How Con Artists Work” by Ed Grabionowski he defines a con-artist as a person who gets our money through deception. As a person who convinces us we are onto something good while making all the profit themselves. A con-artist preys on the weak, the lonely and those in need. The only thing more important than the CON to the con-artist,says Grabionowski, is perfecting, “…a total lack of conscience.” And so it seems this is exactly what the cinema industry are doing now.

Don’t be fooled by their spin. They are out to commit as little money to the cause as they possibly can. They are immensely profitable but are trying to make us all think otherwise. Like the best of con-men they are trying to convince you they are sincere. The reality is closer to my grandfather’s favourite phrase and in his memory I have to ask of the cinemas; ARE YOU ‘AVING A LEAN?

23 thoughts on “You're 'Aving a Lean


    I second that the cinema collective under scrutiny are definitely having a lean, and it’s far more acute than that of the Tower of Pisa’s!

  2. Good article Gary,

    You are spot on about the issue of funding the cost of providing captioning ability and you’re right about the low attendance is a poor excuse for them in showing one movie a week out of three sessions to choose from.

    I note you’ve mentioned the 3 to 4 million Australians who have a form of deafness, yet in the Cinema’s response they had quoted the Australian Bureau of Statistics placing this number at approx 2.67 million. Can you shed any light on this?

    I’ve noticed in all the article’s you’ve written (correct me if I’m wrong) you’ve not mentioned the role of the film distributors. After all they’re responsible for providing content and that includes captioned versions of their films, not the cinema chains themselves.

    Is there any pressure being applied to the distributors as well as the cinema chains? It’s kinda pointless to have the ability to show captions when there’s not enough content go with it.

    Did you know that ALL Australian featured films financed by Screen Australia must be captioned? Well yes, but it doesn’t mean the main cinema chains will screen those films does it?

    That said, keep up the good work in spreading the word.

  3. You are correct in the assumption that them distibotors have a role as well. more pressure needs to be put on them as well. It is something the cinema industry did raise in their response. I guess in a short two page article there is only so much you can cover 🙂

    In terms of the statistics I go by deafness Forums claim of one in six … which for a population of 21 million makes 3 500 000 … whether it’s the ABS figure or this one the market is still very high, particularly if you include associates. I tend to lean towards the higher figure as there are many, particularly the elderly, who will not disclose the degree of hearing loss that they have.

    I will see if i can find out more info on tyhe pressure being placved on distibutors. At the end of the day the cinemas still have to be able to provide the access. No point in having captions if they cant be shown but it is a valid point.

    Cheers mate

  4. Hi Gary and Liam

    I wish to stress a few things. Firstly the article Gary wrote is only the tip of the iceberg. I encourage you to read the cinema’s response to AHRC questions and many (virtually all) of their responses are:

    1) False and misleading – the statistics is an attempt to down play the true market size;

    2) Highly questionable in their reasons as per what Gary indicated in the article;

    3) Diverting blame to other people (us) and the distributors/Studio/Producers. I have been informed by a reliable source that such blame onto the distributors is a diversion tactic by the cinema. Many of the movies are captioned and it is a matter of swithing it on. Just like a DVD we have at present. Most of the movies are from UK and USA and already captioned in majority of cases. It is purely the cinema does not want to go down that path so they are trying to channel our energy (read pressure) away from them and onto other suppliers which is a clear sign that they are realising the enormity of their responsibility and obligations;

    4) The reference to the $500,000 outlay is a very small portion of the cost when they will recoup this and more when the cinema is marketed effectively as what Gary’s article indicated. Marketing using very small fine print, little to no reference to the website and design in a way to deter rather than entice this market is a sure sign it will fail. It is NOT community fault. The 450 submission is evidence of this but it is VERY obvious that they have not read each and every one of these submissions otherwise they would not have made such gross misleading statement.

    5) The reference to establish an advisory group is another attempt slow down the implementation process and to have greater control over this group that en masse across Australia.

    6)Read closely the many sections in their response where they try to cite that this collective approach is better than attending to each and every individual claim so they want the exemption to prevent them from addressing it. Bottom line is they cant. They have to address to date over 250 individual discrimination claims.

    7) Regarding Screen Australia. Yo will note the cinema response did not answer the question and merely made reference to the terms that was agreed in 2007. But the REAL question that need to ask is how many of these Australian made movies were captioned but were NOT shown on the cinema for us to see and more importantly why.

    The list continues. It appears to be a gross, misleading and diversion tactical response letter from them I have seen thus far.



  5. Dean,

    I appreciate your comments, thank you.

    Thanks for quoting your reliable source that all it takes is just a matter of switching it on. Are we able to receive “official” confirmation from the distributors that this is indeed the case? The idea here is if we receive confirmation that the films with captions are being supplied then it will weaken the cinema chain’s stance.

    We also need to be aware of the “zoning” tactic used by the film studios, that is they might argue the captions are specific for the US market, and another set is specific to the UK market but not Australia.

    about 6) yes, and I believe that they intend to do this as long as the exemption is granted.

    About the statistics, then yes we all know they can be twisted to say anything 🙂 Just ask Sir Humphrey from “Yes Minister”

    Best thing we can do is strengthen our arguments to put captioning ability in cinemas and weaken theirs.

    • and we appreciate your thoughts Liam. I have a feeling the distributors may well be the missing link in the chain.

  6. It’s painful watching you guys fumble your way towards the answers I posted earlier. Yes, the distributors are the missing link in the chain. The problem is that you’re trying to have a leadership position at the same time you have a learning experience.

    In the meantime, I’m going to any cinema I want, anytime I want, and enjoying captioned access. All that needs to be done is for the cinemas to provide that method so that patrons are not forced to buy devices if they want equal access.

    The reason why the cinemas are saying no is because you want rear window (which reduces the values of seats), or you want captions on the picture (which reduces value for other patrons). This would be a constant cost on a recurring basis as well.

    Build up a case for providing time synchronised captioning access, and cinemas providing eBook type devices for access, then they have something they can actually build into their processes without disruption, no recurring cost, and a one off marginal expenditure.

    Then instead of your efforts trying to “win” the argument against your chosen targets (eg, Deaf vs cinemas), you would be helping all people have real access to all cinemas, all the time.

    Instead of that wonderful vision for the future, I’m sure you’ll just argue with me instead.

    • and i also suggest you read Deans response in regard to the distributors .. it answers most of what you are saying.

  7. Steve

    I’m afraid it is you that is missing the point.

    The point is not what technology is available, the point is whether the companies are willing to make access available.

    That is the point.

    There is a case for captioned movies. That had already been argued to death, and that rationale is being ignored by the cinema’s.

    SO you want us to develop yet another rationale, for which we should apply to yet more technologies, to which the cinema’s could, or should I say, would very well ignore, one again.

    In capitalism, they would gladly take your money without giving you a product!

  8. I agree that the response is complete bullshit, and both the original article and Dean’s response are particularly good at ripping it to shreds.

    I wish I could use pen and paper to draw out diagrams so that I can communicate better. OK, look at this URL:

    On the left is the argument that you are having, and on the right is the argument that you should be having. The cinemas shouldn’t have anything to do with the captioning process, but they should provide the facilities to support the display of captions.

    See how you suddenly don’t need to talk to people who don’t care?

    The next problem is uptake. If only a few people use it, then more people won’t use it.

    People who already have smartphones (or have them as part of equal access) can already do this with effort and annoyances. I would like to just turn my phone on and it works properly and I have a relaxing time, so I would like this to happen!

    Instead of caring about captions and having this whole other complicated business in every cinema with strange gadgets… all they have to do is buy some large, easily read, viewing screens. No special viewing times where they lose money, just tell the minimum wage guy to hand over the thingy when asked.

    Why hasn’t this been done before? It is because the argument on the left is the right argument for the 1990’s. Captions HAD to be displayed by the cinemas, as there was no other option.

    Now there is another option. The argument on the right is the argument that you should be having for 2010.

  9. The “minimum wage guy” is working for the cinema, selling tickets or popcorn. I wasn’t clear with what I wrote, sorry.

    • Steve

      I understand the argument hat you are giving. I think most of us do. I am all for choice and what not, watch captions on your phone if you can and the like, but I also think it should not rely on whether we have a smart phone or not.

      Now as I understand it, and if you read Deans input, a lot of movies come already captioned. All Australian movies are captioned by law. Overseas I believe similar laws exist. The problem of having movies captioned is less than the one of having opportunities to show them.

      Now if movies are captioned and I can watch a movie and get the captions on my ohone thats great. My hearing impaired mother, and boy is she getting deaf, would not have a bar on the technology and would struggle to coordinate watching a movie and her phone. So for those people, and there are a lot of them there needs to be a choice. This is where the cinemas have a responsibility.

      A lot of movies have captions already but we see very few of them and this is another part of the lobby. So in regards to diagram two – that already occurs but the means to see these captions are being denied us.

      I ttally support yupur idea of having access on the phone. But still to have that we need access. I agreee perhaps it is something that can be added to the lobby and no one has said it should not.

      The themes here are:

      1) Cinemas taking responsibility to provide access, after all we pay, without US having to pay extra for the technology – BUT – if we so chose we can use our own technology.

      2) That we be given a choice of more movies, more times and more places to see captions and what is being offered is not enough. True the smart phone can give us wider access but it should be a choice and not just solely up to the patron to have a smart phone.

      3) The cinema industry are pulling the wool over peoples eyes and are proving misinformation what not and so on.

      4) Considering the size of the market the Cinemas are just crazy not to provide better access.

      In a nutshell we get you but dont agree the smart phone idea you propose should be the sole answer. AND the diagram two that you propose is already there its having the means to see the captions that is the issue.

  10. Hi Steve

    Katrina Parker was one of the key people involved in overseeing the Adelaide protest and would be the best person to keep in touch in regards to future activities in this regards.

    Regards Dean

  11. I was thinking more along the lines of talking to them myself. I only agree (uneasily) with the general objectives, and I don’t want to be seen as continuing an existing argument.

    I have the captioning data, and only want it provided uniformly and with timing information. That can be used by a lot of people, and it will help you with your other points as well.

    • Hard to say Steve. This protest is aimed mostly at the Australian Human Rights Commission to make sure the Cinemas are not granted an exemption to DDA complaints and keep them answerable to the law in terms of access. the big four are Hoyts, Greater union and Reading … and one other I can not recall.

      You could try either one of those though I doubt they will be responsive. Alternately you could pass on your data and views to Arts Access Victoria who are coordinating the campaign.

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