Has it come to this? Are American audiences so afraid of subtitles that theater managers feel compelled to notify them in advance, lest they storm out and demand their money back?
The sign above is not an April Fool's Day joke. The management of the Angelika Film Center in Dallas, Texas posted it in regard to Mother, a really fine film by Bong Joon-ho (The Host) that concluded a successful two-week run last night. I was really happy to catch it on the big screen with a couple of friends and a decent-sized crowd. But the sign in the box office window caught my eye, especially since the Angelika is the only multiplex in Dallas devoted exclusively to independent and foreign-language films. (Others feature mainstream fare as well as limited releases.) Audiences know what to expect when they come to the Angelika: films that are often challenging, sometimes rewarding, and, yes, sometimes in languages other than English.
Considering the persistence of people who text during movies -- not a problem last night, by the way -- and the prevalence of news tickers on television shows, surely no one can now honestly claim they "don't like reading at the movies." That's a lame excuse at the best of times. Subtitles are no more a distraction than bad 3-D effects, and millions will crowd into theaters this weekend, gladly paying extra for the privilege. I've seen notices warning that a movie released in 3-D is not playing in 3-D at a particular theater, and I've seen warnings that a movie might cause motion sickness, but do subtitles really cause so much consternation that their presence would keep you from buying a ticket to a really good movie? In that case, what other notices should theater managers be posting?