Universal, Focus offer caption option on DVDs

Academy screeners have always offered viewers the opportunity to watch the latest buzzed-about pic in the comfort of their own home. Now, some screeners are getting even more user-friendly.

This year, Focus Features is offering a caption option at the beginning of all of its awards-season hopefuls, including “Milk” and “In Bruges.”

Focus execs say they made the decision after receiving a great deal of feedback from older guild and Academy members who are hearing impaired.

“We took this to heart since we, of course, want to make sure that as wide an audience as possible can enjoy the full experience of our films,” says David Brooks, prexy of worldwide marketing at Focus, which also offered the feature on “Burn After Reading.”

The captions help even those with perfect auditory skills decipher dialogue spoken with accents, like Sean Penn‘s nasally Long Island inflections in “Milk” or Colin Farrell‘s thick brogue in “Bruges.”

Further driving the need for captions is the fact that a sizable contingent of the Academy hails from outside the United States — from U.K. thesps to Mexican helmers to Eastern European cinematographers. It stands to reason that non-native speakers enjoy their movie-watching experience better when they fully understand the lines being uttered by the film’s thesps.

Like Focus, Universal also offers the caption option on its Academy screener copies of pics such as “Frost/Nixon.”

But studios like 20th Century Fox and Paramount have yet to join the caption bandwagon. Brad Pitt‘s N’awlins twang in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” or Mickey Rourke‘s New Joisey patois might have benefited from some additional translation.

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