Thanks to a clever app invention, an English-speaking daughter can take her Spanish-speaking mother to the movies in English. TheaterEars is a free app available in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that syncs a movie studio’s official Spanish-language audio track to an English-language film playing at a local theater.
For instance, you all want to see the new Quentin Tarantino film, but there’s a Spanish speaker among you who won’t understand a thing. Problem solved: simply download the app, select the Tarantino film, the movie theater and show time you want, connect your earbuds, and press the play button. Presto! Your Spanish-speaking companion can watch the English-language film and listen to the audio in Spanish. And if you run late like most of us Latinos, TheaterEars will sync to the movie at any point; even if you take your seat halfway through the film. Another neat feature is that you can leave your seat to go to the bathroom or concession stand and still listen to the movie’s audio in your headphones while you’re gone.
I contacted TheaterEars’ Florida-based CEO, Dan Mangru, and asked him what the inspiration behind this great idea was. He told me that that two of his best friends, Larry and Virginia Kawa, faced a situation that many Latinos in the United States encounter. When his friends married, Virginia’s mom, Maria, came to move in with them from Colombia. Like many immigrants, she was not fluent in English. Eventually, Larry and Virginia had kids and wanted to do family movie nights. But Maria would either go and not have a good time or not go at all due to the language barrier.
“Virginia, who went with her mom frequently to the movies in Colombia as a child, wanted to take her mom to the movies in her own language,” says Mangru. “If you remember the old App Store commercials, where they said ‘there’s an app for that,’ Virginia thought why not make an app to take my mom to the movies. As time went on this idea became more serious and eventually we all teamed up together to make TheaterEars a reality.”
Since the app’s nationwide launch in 2017 with Pixar’s Coco, it now has close to half a million users and has ranked in the top 50 on the App Store. For now TheaterEars is available in the United States and Puerto Rico and only features movies in Spanish, but as they continue to grow they plan to add different languages and more territories. Mangru says that he has received a lot of thankful letters from users and has even facilitated a few love connections, where people were able to ask out a special someone who preferred Spanish at the movies.
TheaterEars cuts right through that pesky language barrier and enables people to go the movies together despite their native language. “What we’ve found through this journey is that people want to relate to each other,” says Mangru. “That’s what movies do. In seeing the world through someone else’s perspective, that shared experience at the movies draws us closer together and allows us to connect in ways we didn’t before.”