David Colley investigates a broken loop at a cinema – only to find out it doesn’t exist!

Empire Cinema The Gate Newcastle

17th May 2011: Last week I went to see the film Hanna at my local cinema: the Empire at Newcastle City Gate complex. I had asked about the induction loop system, which is advertised on their website, so I could hear better. Staff happily advised me that I should ask for it to be switched on each time I see a film. I did. Three times! And still it wasn’t working. Staff said I wasn’t using my hearing aid properly (I was, cos I checked), and offered me headphones which I can’t use with my behind-the-ear aid.

So I decided to investigate, and went into the Newcastle Empire. Today I met with the charming duty manager, Nick Mapplebeck, pointed out to him that the loop hadn’t worked before, and politely asked him to show me a working induction loop in the cinema. He patiently explained that the best person to explain how the induction loop worked was the projectionist.

But as the projectionist waxed lyrical about the “loop system” it quickly became apparent he was talking about the infra-red headphone system in the cinema, which isn’t an induction loop, and which aren’t suitable with most hearing aids. I pressed them both about what kind of induction loop they had, one which has neckloops for hearing-aid users to wear, perhaps?

They were unable to show me a working induction loop. In fact, once I explained an induction loop system is not a headphone system, they admitted they didn’t have an induction loop at all. Anywhere in the cinema.

But on their website they advertise they do have one. They have a nice little image of an ear, and when you scroll your mouse over it, it comes up with the proud little words: “induction loop”.

Empire Cinema induction loop claim

I’m stunned a national chain of cinemas thinks its ok to advertise an access provision that they know they don’t have. Surely if they’d bought and installed one, they’d jolly well know about it!

Empire cinemas should be ashamed of their false claim and failure to provide auxiliary aids!

UPDATE (Monday 23rd May 2011):
Result! Pesky People got in contact with Empire Cinemas Operation Manager (Paul Baxter) following David’s post and are pleased to say that they are happy for me to report an update on David’s post including

  1. Empire Cinemas is addressing the issues and looking at training to ensure that nationally that they are providing the best service to Deaf and Hard of Hearing customers;
  2. Addressing David’s complaints (both at HQ and with Newcastle Empire’s Manager);
  3. Are now aware that their system for hearing aid users is an infra-red system and not an induction loop system and changing their publicity material to reflect this;
  4. Investigating technically immediately how to improve this (both access and equipment wise) for the benefit of not only David but all cinema goers needing access to their infra red system.