2010 Conference: Say goodbye to Hollywood-separating local from global issues in cinema access by Alex Varley

This presentation was made at the 2010 conference of the Round Table on Information Access for People with Print Disabilities. You can flip through the slides or listen to an audio recording of the presentation.

Download this presentation

Audio recording of Alex Varley’s presentation (MP3, 38.5 MB)

Audio recording of questions to Alex Varley and John Simpson about audio description (MP3, 10.2 MB)

Presenter’s bio

Alex Varley presenting about audio description.

Alex Varley is the CEO of Media Access Australia (www.mediaaccess.org.au), a not-for-profit, public benevolent institution that develops and promotes access to media and information through technology for disadvantaged people. Its current major areas of focus are captioning and audio description, particularly for DVD, television, cinema and downloadable media. MAA also looks at website and broadband accessibility and access to education media.

Alex is also a director of Australian Social Innovation Exchange Pty Ltd, a not-for-profit organisation developing social innovation in Australia. He was the founding Chairman of the Australian Communications Consumers Action Network (ACCAN).

Alex has extensive experience in communications and access for disabled people both internationally and in Australia. He has presented numerous papers, conference sessions and appeared in Government enquiries relating to media. He is also a member of the ACMA Consumer Consultative Forum.

Alex has been with MAA and its predecessor, the Australian Caption Centre, for 14 years. Prior to that he held senior roles at Sydney Theatre Company, Australian National Maritime Museum and BP Australia. He has a Bachelor of Business majoring in Marketing and post-graduate qualifications in urban planning.

His community focus continues outside of his professional life, where he is a keen and active member of his local football (soccer) club, involved in administration, coaching and playing. He is also a former board member of a mental health organisation and a community child care centre.


Australia has just had a boost to cinema access with the announcement of a 30-month program to provide audio description (AD) access to 35 cinemas nationally. This will supplement the existing 12 AD cinemas. However, access is more than just having equipment installed; it also involves sourcing AD films, promotion and customer service. Technology and delivery systems are changing too. This presentation identifies which elements of cinema access are global in nature or influenced by global forces and which are determined locally or need to be at least adapted locally.

The presentation will show that whilst Australia has a small, but significant, influence on global issues, the major challenge is taking global solutions and approaches and adapting them to local needs. Local culture, geography and resource availability are key influences on this process.

There is much hope for an accessible future. Australia is now part of a global cinema access system, with growing amounts of AD content and strong community and government support. New Zealand could also readily adapt the lessons learned “across the ditch” to kick-start its journey into cinema AD inclusion.


Slide 1

Say Goodbye to Hollywood

Separating local from global issues in cinema access

Alex Varley

Media Access Australia

Image: A solid globe of the world with a shiny surface reflecting trees

Slide 2

What will we cover?

  • A quick snapshot of cinema access
  • Global Issues
  • Local Issues
  • What of the future?

Image: The main title is in a box then arrows point to four other boxes of different colours that contain the headings for the topic areas

Slide 3

Snapshot of cinema access

  • Where does Aust/NZ sit in the AD movie world?
  • What changes/ developments are there?

Image: A stacked 3D pie chart with no numbers in it

Slide 4

Global Issues

  • AD created for movies
  • Technology and standards
  • Innovations

Image: A four-piece jigsaw puzzle with an image of the world map on it

Slide 5

AD created internationally

  • How does this work?
  • Who does it?
  • What influence does Aust/NZ have?

Image: A man in a booth with headphones and microphone reading from a script

Slide 6

Technology and standards

  • What technology is being used?
  • What about digital?
  • Role of formats and rival solutions (mainly deaf)

Image: A close up of a piece of equipment that says DTS XD10 cinema media player

Slide 7


  • How important is choice in solutions?
  • What are the problems with choice?
  • DTS vs Mopix vs Doremi vs Other Digital

Image: A lightbulb with a goldfish swimming inside it

Slide 8

Local Issues

  • Australian movies
  • Promotion at cinema level
  • Support
  • Lobbying

Image: A frill-necked lizard with its mouth menacingly open

Slide 9

Australian movies

  • Scope of the issues
  • Role of Screen Australia

Image: The poster for the movie Australia with Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman embracing

Slide 10


  • Selling AD in local cinemas
  • Website (link to trailers)
  • Community promotions
  • Point-of-sale

Image: A poster with showbiz lights and display, cinema tickets and popcorn Now Showing Get the Whole Picture with audio description and captions

Slide 11

Support and lobbying

  • Use it or it will wither
  • It’s our turn now campaign by BCA
  • Victims of deaf turf wars – beware

Image: A large crowd watching an event

Slide 12

What of the future?

  • 3D with everything
  • Self-programming
  • RNIB’s Bollywood project
  • iPhones Subtitles App

Image: A close up of 6 men wearing 3D glasses

Slide 13

Useful resources



[end of slides]


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