When was the last time you saw a film without subtitles? In Hong Kong films are commonly shown with either Chinese or English subtitles, sometimes both, rather than without any at all. It seems, however, that some of the staff members manning the ticket counters of some local cinemas aren't aware of this. Why else would more than one Caucasian friend of mine tell me that they've had conversations with local cinema employees that run along the following lines when they go to watch a Chinese language film? Friend: "I'd like a ticket for [title of film] please." Cinema employee: "This is a Chinese movie." Friend: "Yes, I know." Cinema employee: "How can you watch it?" Friend: "Um ... it has English subtitles doesn't it?" Cinema employee: "Oh, right, OK." In some cases it seemed that those in charge of subtitling had the same attitude and looked at subtitles as an afterthought, perhaps explaining the terrible English subtitles for some Hong Kong classics, such as Tsui Hark's Peking Opera Blues , whose original English subtitles included lines like "There's a girl. Knock her up." In recent years, however, there does appear to have been a general improvement in the quality of English subtitles of many Hong Kong films, and I'd like to ascribe this development to the people behind these films coming to realise the value of subtitles, including in making their films accessible to a wider audience. On a related note, an industry insider told me recently the very high standard of Chinese subtitles for Yuya Ishii's The Great Passage , about a taciturn lexicographer charged with helping compile a new "living language" dictionary, was a key factor in its reception by local audiences. The same is said of Bollywood comedy-drama 3 Idiots , which was a surprise success in Hong Kong and Taiwan. Of course, it also helps that both these films were entertaining works in their own right, but it is of no small significance that their subtitles enabled many viewers here to realise that.