Call it an infomercial for the blind.
A Woodland Hills-based nonprofit group called Retinitis Pigmentosa International has purchased time on KCOP-TV Channel 13 Sunday for a broadcast of the 1978 movie "Heaven Can Wait" with a special soundtrack that describes what's happening on screen for those who can't see.
It's the first use on television of the process that Helen Harris, president of Retinitis Pigmentosa International, developed to enable the blind and other vision-impaired people to enjoy motion pictures. Called TheatreVision, the year-old system involves creating a track on which a narrator tells listeners what's going on when characters aren't speaking.
Descriptive narration tracks have been produced for "Apollo 13," "Forrest Gump" and "Pocahontas," among other films. These have been shown at special screenings, but Harris hopes eventually to make the technology available in neighborhood movie theaters. The blind would listen to the narration track on wireless headphones so as not to disturb other patrons.
Sunday's telecast, under the title "The Eyes of Christmas," is intended partly as a Christmas Eve gift to blind people and partly as a showcase for TheatreVision, said Harris, who herself is blind. During breaks in the film, celebrities will share Christmas memories, Charlton Heston will read "Yes, Virginia, There Is a Santa Claus," and there will be other examples of descriptive narration--from the lighting of the national Christmas tree to previews of coming movies.
There also will numerous pitches to raise money for TheatreVision and for the medical fight against blindness and other degenerative eye diseases.
* "The Eyes of Christmas" will air 2:30-5 p.m. Sunday on KCOP-TV Channel 5. The audio portion also will be broadcast 9 p.m.-midnight Sunday on KIEV-AM (870), with Harris also taking phone calls from listeners.