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Dimming soon to a theater near you.
May 22, 2011 8:38 AM   Subscribe

While theaters with weak and incorrect bulbs have long been the bane of movie fans, the rise of 3D projectors have added a new wrinkle. Many chain theaters (at least in the Boston area) are leaving on the 3D lenses for 2D movies, which can make it "as much as 85 percent darker than a properly projected film".
posted by FreezBoy (73 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

 
I go to the movies 2 or 3 times a year, and am often disappointed by something in the projection and/or sound. Last week it was Thor with some audio distortion, an artifact (a seam or tear?) on the screen, and it was pretty blurry by the credits.

Very occasionally I complain and get free tickets, but usually it's too much bother. And really, I like seeing a 40' tall Odin!
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 8:43 AM on May 22, 2011


It's hard enough to get me to shell out $40 to go to the theatres now, especially when I know that financing my projector/home-theatre system is getting cheaper by the year. If they degrade the quality of my viewing experience, I will be more than happy to be six-months behind on all new releases by watching only what's released at home, in a good environment (with healthy popcorn, no less!)
posted by dflemingecon at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


There is a real problem these days with a lack of trained projectionists.
posted by SmileyChewtrain at 8:45 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


Is "only 15% as bright", if that's what they mean, really so hard to write? There is no unit of darkness (maybe "the batman?"), so "85% darker" is meaningless.
posted by DU at 8:47 AM on May 22, 2011 [13 favorites]


I love nothing better than going to a movie theater, standing in line to buy a ticket from a surly kid, walking across a sticky floor to settle in my understuffed seat in an area all by myself. Then the lights dim and I enjoy the 30 minutes of advertisements for so many things: cars, overpriced snacks, local real estate. If I ever want to have a company meeting, why, I can do it right here! Then the reminder I'm a suspected criminal: no photos of the screen. Then the main feature! Well, not quite, the previews. I tense as the gang of teenagers walk in, loudly chatting, and sit right behind me. I can just make them out thanks to the glow of their iphones. And then finally, the picture, the main film. With the sound improperly mixed, the picture not properly framed on the screen, and everything washed out and dim.
posted by Nelson at 8:48 AM on May 22, 2011 [28 favorites]


Oh turds. Boston Common? Regal Fenway? Where am I supposed to go see blockbusters now? Kendall Square, save me!
posted by benito.strauss at 8:55 AM on May 22, 2011


Is "only 15% as bright", if that's what they mean, really so hard to write? There is no unit of darkness (maybe "the batman?"), so "85% darker" is meaningless.

when i was in high school there was a crt monitor with a black level adjusting knob...
posted by ennui.bz at 9:01 AM on May 22, 2011


I am totally ok with this thread turning into a rant about Hollywood and its crappy use of 3D.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 9:02 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


It would seem there would be a business opportunity here for a theater or chain to properly train its employees (or at least buy easier equipment), and then advertise the shit out the fact that their competitors don't know/care what the hell they're doing.
posted by mrbula at 9:03 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There is a real problem these days with a lack of trained projectionists.

As well as ones that care enough to do their job properly. One of my closest friends for the past 30 years (christ I'm old) has a younger brother who's of diminished mental capacity; not in major way as far as those things go but the most accurate way to describe the brother is that he's perpetually about 14 years old. His vocabulary and articulation are at least as good as the average adult, stellar memory, but his reasoning, grasp of nuance and ability to plan beyond the nearly immediate is more in line with an adolescent. Appropriately, he loves wrestling, comic books and most of all he loves movies. Just as appropriately, he works as a projectionist and loves his job the way that only a devoted fan of a medium lucky enough to work in it can.

Obviously, displaying the films properly is extremely important to him. He loves movies, and deeply appreciates that he's been trusted with the responsibility to show these movies to others and give them the best experience possible. He always has a work story that involves his co-workers' (most of them are normally-developed high school or recently post high-school) indifference and shortcuts and his wonder and disappointment at their lack of concern.

I see stories about the difficulty of job placement for the mentally handicapped all the time, and I'm sure that there must be other people like my friend's brother who would love to do that job and would do it well. I wonder why his employment situation doesn't seem more common.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2011 [20 favorites]


Gaaaah. The theater chain in the town where I grew up used to ALWAYS use under-powered bulbs in their projectors. I think there was a VERY brief time right after a new cineplex opened where the projectors were all brand new and had full-powered bulbs, but they don't last forever, and soon they were all replaced by underpowered bulbs and movies got dark and dingy again. The owner of that chain was probably doing it to save money on electricity to run the bulbs or something -- he was that special kind of asshole who has a monopoly in something and then degrades the consumer experience because they don't have any choices so theoretically won't know any better. But it was obvious to anyone who was any sort of movie fan that he was doing it.

(And don't get me started on how during a climactic scene of The Serpent And The Rainbow the theater actually had an emergency light TURN ITSELF ON just when the theater was supposed to be as pitch black as possible...)

I'm not at all surprised that 1) movie theaters are too lazy to swap out the lenses on their projectors, and 2) that Sony has made it as difficult as possible for that lens swap to happen.

A properly projected digital movie is really beautiful. But a poorly projected ANYTHING should have the customers staying away in droves.

And the movie industry wonders why their box office continues to fall year after year, even in its key teenage boy demographic (who aren't the most discriminating audience generally). The soul and life has gone out of that industry, and even Roger Ebert is being forced to admit that maybe the best place for adults to view quality content these days is made for television and long-form serial entertainment.
posted by hippybear at 9:16 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Optical engineers strive mightily to get the performance up for digital projectors, just so someone can get lazy further down the distribution chain, and waste half of that light to save a small amount of effort.

Sound familiar? Is your blazing quad-processor with gigs of ram struggling to play that flash file, because a programmer couldn't be bothered to dig down through all those layers of bloated software?
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:19 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


We're heading off to see Thor in a few minutes. We'll watch it at Frederick Twin because the guy who runs the place just loves movies and the projection and sound are quite good and if you complain about focus he apologizes profusely and fixes it very carefully and he never does 3D and the popcorn is super fresh and you can get real butter and sure it costs a lot for concessions but the feature tickets are like just six bucks and it's just perfect. Also the douchebag assholes who want to shell out $15 a ticket for stadium seating and pizza and sushi in their seats from some chain (FUCK YOU GALAXY) never come out so it is just families and kids and random people and it's perfect. And yeah I have an awesome home theatre with a projector and everything but some movies you want the whole experience and it's an afternoon adventure and part of the holiday tradition or something. So, yeah. Thanks, movie dude!
posted by seanmpuckett at 9:21 AM on May 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


I used to see a movie a week. Sometimes two. I am having a hard time remembering what the last movie I saw in the theater was. I think "Iron Man 2," but it could be something more recent. I can think of few products that if they suck you have to live with it. A bad movie comes with no price difference from a good one. A 300 million dollar production costs as much as a 3 million dollar production.

I sent a letter to Cinemark complaining about their food prices. They forwarded the letter to my local chain to respond, which I still can't decide if this is cool or cowardly. It feels like passing the buck, but at the same time you get a local response.

I remember going to see "X-Men 2" and static built up on the film, so it would stop. I got up, went out to the lobby, informed them, they got it going again. It stopped again. I got up, etc. etc. Repeat three times. On the third I demanded my money back; told them I'd go see the movie in a theater that didn't suck. They gave it to me. I asked for a refund on my concessions too, but they wouldn't give me that since I still had them. I pointed out that the only value that was added to my 30 cent Coke and 10 cent popcorn was the fact that I was going to be able to eat it in the theater.

I remember getting pretty vocal about it and since there was a line for the other theaters eventually the manager gave me my money back there as well. The theater experience has gone way down. I hate paying to be advertised to. I hate being extorted for the concession price. I hate the other people in the theater. I'm not a fan of 3D. So what's left?

This is why I am still thinking about seeing "Priest" and the new "Pirates" movie. In the past I would already have the group of friends lined up that I was going with. Now often I wait for it to hit Redbox, by then I can't even remember why I was excited about it, so more times than not I shrug and save the $1.
posted by cjorgensen at 9:27 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


You used to need to be a licensed and union-affiliated projectionist to be let anywhere near a projection booth. The big chains came in and busted the union (especially in the national chains), and now there are a lot of problems with projector and film maintenance, and even day-to-day stuff like making sure it's framed and focussed properly or the sound isn't too loud or soft in the theater.

It's a shame, as a pro in the projection booth can really bring out the best in a film - no frame jitters or sound warbling, just crystal clear audio and a bright, clean, crisp image. This kind of quality is now the exception rather than the rule, despite the equipment getting orders of magnitude better.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:44 AM on May 22, 2011 [10 favorites]


Movie theaters, like newspapers, are obsolete. A positive experience depends on way too many things going right, both in terms of movie making, and in terms of the theater. I remember once I took my wife to see Star Trek: Nemesis. For some reason, the center channel of the sound wasn't working, so although you could hear the music, and the controls going 'beep' and starships zooming around, when the actors spoke you heard no dialog. Nothing.
I took her there to make up for taking her to see Star Trek V, because I figured nothing could be worse than that. I was wrong.
posted by jabah at 9:51 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Is "only 15% as bright", if that's what they mean, really so hard to write? There is no unit of darkness (maybe "the batman?"), so "85% darker" is meaningless.


This is a common and very irritating thing. Have a look at any of that various FPPs here which link to a pop song slowed down, where the song is described as being "800% slower" or something. With this degree of carelessness in description, the figure is meaningless to the point of being totally irrelevant, so why not call it "a million times slower" or somesuch?
posted by ricochet biscuit at 9:57 AM on May 22, 2011


I saw a sneak preview of PotC4 in 3D--the first of the new breed of 3D movies I've seen--and if the ticket hadn't been free I would have demanded my money back. I couldn't see a damn thing, even in scenes taking place in full daylight, and night scenes were indecipherable. The colors were washed out, and all told I'd say the projection reached a dimness of at least 3.5 batmans.

This is why people have nice, big LCD TVs and Netflix accounts.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:58 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


I live in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, and I have given up on finding a single movie theater that properly lights the screen. I have tried both the chains and independents and none of them are doing their job. I can't afford a weekly movie habit, but I would happily go once a month if I could find just one theater in the area that projected the picture at the brightness level intended by the film makers.
posted by marsha56 at 10:05 AM on May 22, 2011


In downtown Toronto, I don't think I've really seen this degradation of quality at all. If anything, the chains here (Cineplex and AMC) are doing a pretty good job. I recently went to see Thor 3D at the Scotiabank Theatre in one of their new UltraAVX cinemas. The tickets were a dollar or two more than usual, but the seats leaned back, had movable arm rests, and best of all--assigned seating! Even with a popular like Thor, I could get my tickets from the Cineplex app on my phone (no surcharge), show up five minutes before the show at my assigned seat and skip all the commercials. Sound and picture quality were way better than what I can get at home even with my projector and THX certified receiver setup. I wouldn't go all the time, but I like the latest developments in the theatre business here in Canada.
posted by reformedjerk at 10:06 AM on May 22, 2011


3D is a curse.

(Luckily, it's a fad with a life cycle as predictable as the cicada, it comes back every 30 years like clockwork (1890's, 1920's, 1950's, 1980's, 2010's) to rip off a new generation of moviegoers. When they wise up, it goes back to lurking in hibernation, patiently waiting for a fresh crop of suckers.)
posted by fairmettle at 10:29 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


And the movie industry wonders why their box office continues to fall year after year

Annual box office receipts have either risen or held steady for the last five years.
posted by mediareport at 10:36 AM on May 22, 2011


Get Tyler Durden back up in there.
posted by Horselover Phattie at 10:46 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The soul and life has gone out of that industry

the film industry > hollywood
posted by nathancaswell at 10:47 AM on May 22, 2011


Annual box office receipts have either risen or held steady for the last five years.

Sorry, I must have not written which I actually meant, which is that movie attendance is down.

June 2010 -- box office down 19%, weekend gross down 28%.

August 2010 -- movie attendance lowest since 1997

Jan 2011 -- movie attendance in previous year lowest since 1996

Feb 2011 -- YTD attendance down 22% vs. previous year

May 2011 -- box office down in key youth demographics
posted by hippybear at 10:51 AM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Annual box office receipts have either risen or held steady for the last five years.

Nope. The number of tickets has a metric crapload of red there from the peak in 2002 (which the industry seems to have not matched since). The market is shrinking and is being propped up by an increased average ticket price.

The market is shrinking. Maybe not year on year with some years seeing a rebound in ticket sales but when you're selling 85% of the tickets you were 8 years ago it's an industry in decline.
posted by Talez at 10:53 AM on May 22, 2011


There is a real problem these days with a lack of trained projectionists.
Used to be a union profession. Just sayin'...
posted by Thorzdad at 10:59 AM on May 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


The last movie I went to was the Star Trek reboot. I saw three minutes of it. It wasn't picture quality that was the problem. It was the 2 year old rug-rat running up and down the aisle screaming. The parents did nothing. I apologized to the wife, who was quite understanding, and walked out. I got a refund and the manager was understanding. Up until I asked why he didn't talk to the parents. He looked at me like I was crazy.

I went to a bar for a few beers and met the wife at our car after the movie let out.

I haven't been back to a theater since then and I don't miss it.
posted by Splunge at 11:00 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


There used to be professional projectionists? I can see now that it makes sense but I just never knew that or had even thought about it. I vaguely remember movie theatres staffed with more adults than kids, but not really.

I went to see a 3D imax movie (hubble) and it was so blurry I had to keep taking the glasses off and squinting since that way I could actually see something. Or pretend I was in space. I can't imagine seeing a full length 3D movie at this point in the technology's development.
posted by sio42 at 11:03 AM on May 22, 2011


3D is the future and the prices are completely worth the spectacle. First came the Silents, then came the Talkies, and now I'm glad we can leave the Flatties in my rear view mirror. I'm such a fan of 3D movies that when I see 2D movies I bring sunglasses so I get the same rewarding experience.

(And since this is the internet, isn't it sad that I have to say /snark?)
posted by CarlRossi at 11:04 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This sucks because were it not for this, the movie-theater-going experience would be absolutely perfect.
posted by Legomancer at 11:14 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I will say this about 3D: The only good thing I have to say about Alice in Wonderland (the new, ultra shitty one) is that it used the 3D well. And Coraline did have some shots where it at least mattered that it was 3D.

Anyway, I live in a college town where there's no way that a single person working at any of the teaters isn't a college student looking for a better job and I've never noticed anything so egregious as anyone here is reporting. My only complaint is that sometimes it's too loud.

But there is that one time when I was about 12 and went to see Meteor Man but they played the first 30 minutes of some gritty drama that was not only completely unlike Meteor Man but totally out of focus before someone realized that Meteor Man wasn't a grim depiction of life on the streets and went to find the manager.
posted by cmoj at 11:26 AM on May 22, 2011


1) If the bulbs in 3D projectors are twice as bright as normal projectors, there's no problem here — right?

2) Optics get dirty over time, and need to be cleaned. This happens a lot more quickly than most people realize. I have no idea about cinema projectors, but this totally happens in robotic theatrical lights, and certain lighting fixtures are a lot harder to clean than others.

3) HID bulbs are frickin' expensive. Not as bad as the self-contained "bulb modules" that LCD projectors require, but still on the order of several hundred dollars per. They also require careful handling, and generally "burn out" by exploding. Over time, they get dimmer and hotter. I can see why a theatre owner would prefer to keep a "stable" bulb that's a bit dim versus taking the risk of installing a new bulb that might fail after a few days. (Non-movie) Theatre operators do this all the time, because new bulbs are expensive and less reliable than old bulbs. They also require somewhat careful handling when being installed. This takes some time to learn to do correctly, and most theaters these days have a high rate of turnover. I'm actually not sure why you don't see projectors fail more frequently during shows...

On the subject of exploding bulbs, the lamps in IMAX projectors are under such high pressures and voltages that operating an IMAX projector is a highly-skilled, and somewhat hazardous occupation.
posted by schmod at 11:27 AM on May 22, 2011


I can deal with the lighting. It's the extreme volume that drives me crazy. I leave a theater with a headache, nearly every time. Which admittedly isn't often these days.
Way too expensive.
posted by etaoin at 11:34 AM on May 22, 2011


I just went and saw Thor in 3d imax. I thought the sound was really good and the IMAX was suitably impressive and bright.

I guess my experience was above average.
posted by psycho-alchemy at 11:39 AM on May 22, 2011


1) If the bulbs in 3D projectors are twice as bright as normal projectors, there's no problem here — right?

3D is projected with polarized light. You don't line up all the light waves after they are emitted, you throw away the light waves that aren't oriented the way you want them.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:41 AM on May 22, 2011


psycho-alchemy: did you see it in IMAX, or did you see it in FauxMAX?
posted by hippybear at 11:42 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


And, that's not perfectly efficient, in practice, it's not 1/2 + 1/2 = 1.
posted by StickyCarpet at 11:43 AM on May 22, 2011


I had no idea major chain theatres still used actual film; I thought most theatres had switched to digital projection.
posted by KokuRyu at 11:45 AM on May 22, 2011


Fuck 3D.
posted by Afroblanco at 11:50 AM on May 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Well, I guess this is the way to make Ebert shut up about dark, muddy 3D films: fuck up the regular ones as well.
posted by rodgerd at 11:53 AM on May 22, 2011 [5 favorites]


I don't see movies in the theater that often, but I do remember seeing "The King's Speech" and noting how dim and colorless and it was. I had chalked it up to its drab Britishness. But this seems more likely.
posted by fungible at 11:57 AM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I saw Thor in 2D the other weekend, with a friend. We both agreed that the plot suffered heavily, neither of us empathized with the asgard or human characters. Everything about the movie is tuned to the 3D experience, nothing is spared to make the scenes look good. But the writing was awful.
posted by Exad at 1:07 PM on May 22, 2011


But there is that one time when I was about 12 and went to see Meteor Man but they played the first 30 minutes of some gritty drama that was not only completely unlike Meteor Man but totally out of focus before someone realized that Meteor Man wasn't a grim depiction of life on the streets and went to find the manager.

I saw the first few minutes of Miami Vice in a theatre where it was apparent the -- well, not the projectionist, but the snack bar guy who got to go up and and press the button on the projector -- was unclear on this whole 'anamorphic lens' deal. I thought the credits looked particularly tall and thin, and when it became clear it wasn't just the credits, I went out and found an employee. I mentioned the image was being distorted. He went back in to the auditorium with me and we looked at a scene of an SUV pulling up in front of a bar and the passengers getting out. Seeing what appeared to be a Smart car pulling up and several malnourished NBA players climb out, he corrected me: "No, that is the way it is supposed to look." In retrospect, he may well have been the guy who pushed the button on the projector.

If random customers know your job better than you do, you might want to consider a different line of work.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 1:17 PM on May 22, 2011


Yet another data point in the "no one goes to the movies any more" trend. And the industry wonders why. Keep urinating on the customer, and eventually the customer stops coming to the urinal.
posted by norm at 1:39 PM on May 22, 2011


sio42 wrote: "I went to see a 3D imax movie (hubble) and it was so blurry I had to keep taking the glasses off and squinting since that way I could actually see something. Or pretend I was in space. I can't imagine seeing a full length 3D movie at this point in the technology's development."

They aren't supposed to be like that. When the projector is focused correctly, IMAX 3D is freakin' awesome, even on one of the smallest (real) IMAX screens in the country. Which still dwarfs the rest of the screen at that particular theater..and they have some pretty damn big "regular" screens.
posted by wierdo at 2:08 PM on May 22, 2011


The only things I've seen that worked well in 3D were Coraline and Cave of Forgotten Dreams. I saw both in theaters that seemed to know what they were doing, projection-wise, but I will say that Coraline looks just as good in digital 2D. In the case of Cave of Forgotten Dreams, Werner Herzog's narration lulled me into a sort of fugue state, and I've got to say I'm really not sure what I was looking at.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 2:22 PM on May 22, 2011


Had a movie night at a friend's house yesterday (Apocalypse-themed). They've got a 50" (or maybe it was even bigger) LCD and were playing Blu-Ray discs off a PS3. It makes my 32" 720p set with Blu-Ray look tame.

I don't see any reason to blow $10+/person at the theatre when that same amount could be spent on snack foods at home, and have the ability to heckle Soylent Green and Dr. Strangelove at the same time.
posted by mrbill at 2:28 PM on May 22, 2011


I go to the cinema pub. Couple beers before the feature starts and I am much more accommodating of the foibles of others. Plus the wings are good.
posted by toodleydoodley at 2:33 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Fuck 3D. in it's oversized overpriced ass.

I have strabismus and astigmatism. my eyes do not line up right. the glasses they give for the 3D movies fit badly over my glasses, and even with my glasses and the corrective prisms for my strabismus, it's just enough off that when I tried to see a 3D movie (Despicable Me) I nearly threw up from the headache I had half an hour in, and the theater manager was kind enough to let me switch to the non-3D version.

if this is the future, then I will in this one thing stay in the past.
posted by mephron at 3:38 PM on May 22, 2011


The ideal, toodleydoodley, would be for all cinemas to be able to serve beer. Then it really wouldn't matter what the picture is like.
posted by lesbiassparrow at 3:39 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is a common and very irritating thing. Have a look at any of that various FPPs here which link to a pop song slowed down, where the song is described as being "800% slower" or something. With this degree of carelessness in description, the figure is meaningless to the point of being totally irrelevant, so why not call it "a million times slower" or somesuch?

I asked about this awhile ago and was basically told to lighten up, that it's an idiomatic usage and makes perfectly good sense. I still don't quite get it--it still seems to me that for something to be "100% less" would take it down to zero, so any amount beyond that--3x, 8x, a million x less--is just nonsensical. But here's the AskMe if you want to get a different take on it.
posted by not that girl at 3:40 PM on May 22, 2011


Give me a properly shot 2D movie over a dim 3D movie any day.

The glasses and headache thing are not worth it.
posted by bwg at 5:41 PM on May 22, 2011


Boy, the reigning sentiment here seems to be that because it is difficult to do correctly, it's fundamentally shitty. I'm no fan of shitty 3D movies, guys, but I'm not going to talk down something that has a lot of potential (and I think it does, whatever bitter and snarky people say) because it's hard to do and these days people don't bother doing things correctly. Shouldn't we be more concerned that few filmmakers, producers, projectionists, nor anyone down the line is interested enough in giving a shit that we can get a decent major movie, 3D or otherwise, more than two or three times a year?
posted by BlackLeotardFront at 8:09 PM on May 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Just curious, am I the only person that hasn't seen a 3D movie? And by that I mean the new stuff. Unless the Terminator 3D thing at Universal counts. And I guess it doesn't, for what I'm talking about.
posted by Splunge at 8:43 PM on May 22, 2011


Splunge, I have not seen any of the new wave of mass-market films in 3D. Or 2D, at least in theaters. If I were in the market for a new TV set, I'd probably go with a 3D model, as the upcharge isn't significant on the sort of sets I'd be looking at anyway, but my non-3D 47" does a damn fine job, so why bother?
posted by wierdo at 8:56 PM on May 22, 2011


Just curious, am I the only person that hasn't seen a 3D movie?

I'm incredibly picky about the movies I see in the theater, and even more so about the ones I'm willing to pay the 3D premium to see. So, I've seen maybe 4 total, although I did see U23D twice, because it was (to date) the best implementation of 3D I've seen. I'm looking forward to the Wim Wenders dance film that might actually hit the US sometime this year if we're lucky.

I'm sure there are a lot of people who have never seen a 3D movie.

How many movies in theaters which had the wrong lens on the projector have you seen? :)
posted by hippybear at 8:57 PM on May 22, 2011


I'm fortunate to love in the LA area -- I've personally never had a low light, bad sound, or blurry picture at the Arclight cinema.
posted by chimaera at 9:02 PM on May 22, 2011


*live in the LA area
posted by chimaera at 9:02 PM on May 22, 2011


Splunge: Just curious, am I the only person that hasn't seen a 3D movie? And by that I mean the new stuff. Unless the Terminator 3D thing at Universal counts. And I guess it doesn't, for what I'm talking about.

Nah, there are probably a lot of people. I for one haven't tried the format because I'm one of the many people with visual issues that prevent it from working. My right eye is very farsighted, which doesn't affect me under normal conditions (aside from having not the best peripheral vision on that side, and somewhat reduced depth perception) but when I put on 3d glasses I get one sharp image and one blurry image I only half-see.

I could probably get it to work if I went out and spend a couple of hundred dollars on (regular) glasses, but optometrists in the past have told me that if I start wearing glasses some of the time my brain will stop bothering to filter the signal out, so I'll have to wear them all the time. I don't know if it's worth dealing with that, although I'm starting to feel like it might be since my other eye started developing a little astigmatism (it's still around 20/20, but it's not as sharp as it could be.)
posted by Mitrovarr at 9:03 PM on May 22, 2011


Nope. The number of tickets has a metric crapload of red there from the peak in 2002...

Just pointing out that attendance may be down, but box office grosses have been rising or stable. hippybear's August 2010 link clarifies it pretty well:

Summer movie attendance fell to the lowest level since 1997, while soaring ticket prices produced record revenue for Hollywood studios and theater owners...Summer box-office revenue will rise 2.4 percent to a record $4.35 billion in the U.S. and Canada as higher prices more than make up for the lower attendance, Hollywood.com estimates.
posted by mediareport at 9:06 PM on May 22, 2011


Forget about the 3D or digital aspects; improperly projected films has been a problem for a loooong time. I remember reading an article in the early 90s how studios were "adding light" to the final prints, so that when projected the films would look as intended.

Maybe studios could sweeten their distribution deals with theaters so that the theaters aren't struggling to pay for things by marking up concessions like 2,000%? Nah.
posted by zardoz at 9:33 PM on May 22, 2011


How many movies in theaters which had the wrong lens on the projector have you seen? :)

That would be none. As I stated before, I'm not a movie in the theater person anymore. And again, it's not the cost or the quality of the projectionist or any of that. I guess as I get older I just can't stand the concept of spending a wad of cash to then be assaulted by strangers while I try to immerse myself in a film.

I'm just that way.

I would like to. Really I would. But between the talkers and the phone people. Between the folks that take up a row and break out the picnic lunch and the drunks that talk to the screen...

I'm not kidding, I recall a time when a family sat in front of me and my boyfriend at the time. They literally opened Tupperware and brought out paper plates. Plastic forks the whole thing.

"Mommy do you want that wing?"

"Could I have more of that?"

I was about to explode, but Larry was like, relax man, don't make a scene.

So we moved.

Way to the back of the theater. We couldn't see the movie so well. Or at least I couldn't but that was my problem, I was given the wrong sized contact lenses and they were swimming all over my eyes.

The funny part was that the movie was Moscow on the Hudson with Robin Williams. And there was a scene we were both looking for. At the end a guy talks to Robin Williams' character on a bus. The guy was named Pierre (in real life). We had met him in the Hellfire Club in NYC and he swore that he was in the movie. And even through my veil of tears and swimming contacts we saw that it was indeed him. He was a kick ass sub.

He came up to me at the HF and asked if he could kiss my shoes. I looked at Larry and he shrugged. So here I was, a top anyway, being asked if I wanted a slave.

What was I talking about?

Oh yeah. I can be a bottom. But not for the money that they charge for a damn 3D movie.
posted by Splunge at 9:34 PM on May 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Just curious, am I the only person that hasn't seen a 3D movie?

Nope. I will never willingly watch a 3D movie. What a fucking scam. The "best" of the ilk is that Dances with Smurfs crap. The last "movie" I saw was the first live Rifftrax show. I liked the Rifftrax itself, but I won't be going back. Movie theaters are a fucking scam.
posted by dirigibleman at 10:35 PM on May 22, 2011


Well, the BEST of it would be U23D, but recommending anything U2 is problematic, at best, here on MetaFilter.

Still, the scenes where the camera is at the back of the stadium and the seats in the theater blend into the people in the movie... And that one song where it's a single long camera shot and Bono reaches his hand out toward you and you just feel like you can reach out and take it....

And from all the reviews of the Wim Wender project, it's the movie which elevates 3D out of gimmick and into art form. (Scroll down about halfway on the page for a list of summaries and links to full reviews)

But then.... you denounced movie theaters in general as a scam, so this likely won't matter to you.
posted by hippybear at 10:47 PM on May 22, 2011


because a programmer couldn't be bothered to dig down through all those layers of bloated software?

Whoa whoa, new features are almost always prioritized over performance. Your issue is with the people who schedule product releases, not programmers.
posted by Ad hominem at 11:33 PM on May 22, 2011


dirigibleman: "Nope. I will never willingly watch a 3D movie. What a fucking scam. The "best" of the ilk is that Dances with Smurfs crap. "

Really? I thought Avatar looked fantastic in 3D (middling as a film, though), and every Pixar release gets a Disney Digital 3D version that's not too shabby.
posted by Rhaomi at 4:40 AM on May 23, 2011


Fuck 3D.

That would do boffo box office.
posted by mazola at 7:58 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


Summer movie attendance fell to the lowest level since 1997, while soaring ticket prices produced record revenue for Hollywood studios and theater owners...Summer box-office revenue will rise 2.4 percent to a record $4.35 billion in the U.S. and Canada as higher prices more than make up for the lower attendance, Hollywood.com estimates.

The industry is raising prices in response to falling demand without regard to the competitive situation. This quells demand and causes prices to rise even more thereby causing more demand to fall off.

They're in a pricing death spiral. The writing is on the wall, they're looking right at it and they're just going "nope... everything's right as rain according to this".

The silly thing is cinemas could provide a premium experience and attract their clientele if they just gave a shit. Make sure your video and audio quality are up to scratch and that it outperforms a home theatre system at home. Adopt a "don't be an asshole" policy and then actually throw out people that fail to meet it. Don't allow kids in screenings after 8:30pm on a school night. Hell, charge an extra dollar or two for a "premium" showing that promises to throw out riffraff the second they see the glow of a mobile phone screen or the second they hear someone yelling or talking loudly and you'll have me coming back.
posted by Talez at 10:15 AM on May 23, 2011 [1 favorite]


I also live in Downtown Toronto. In my experience, movie houses here are awful. Especially the Scotiabank and the downtown AMC. It seems like about half the time I see a movie at one of those theatres, the film is incorrectly positioned, such that the top 15% of the frame is projected onto the black curtain above the screen. They’ll happily give you a voucher if you mention it, but they don’t really seem interested in fixing the problem.
posted by Muppetattack at 8:08 AM on May 24, 2011


The ideal, toodleydoodley, would be for all cinemas to be able to serve beer.

the petition, the address, where do I send the check?

but really - went to a 1939 Revival Day recently at the Beach Theatre in st pete beach. 1939 prices on tickets, soda, popcorn; 2011 prices on beer (actually, $3.50 for a Red Stripe, not bad retail). they showed gone with the wind & the wizard of oz. We didn't stay for gwtw (went to the beach, duh), but the Wizard was just on a dvd player (or a mac) and digital projector. it looked & sounded great (esp. compared to most cut-price and even many full-price theaters I've been to this decade). IDK how/what the licensing fees, but even if it was legal it had to be a fraction of the cost of licensing & shipping film, maintaining film projector, etc.

maybe more cinemas will go back to repertory, which is what I really like anyway (RIP The Movies aka Moviola in downtown Cincinnati, where I first saw Truffaut's Spare Change, Kurosawa's Ran and David Stevens' Clinic).
posted by toodleydoodley at 7:08 PM on May 24, 2011


IDK how/what the licensing fees, but even if it was legal it had to be a fraction of the cost of licensing & shipping film, maintaining film projector, etc.

The projectors being talked about in this FPP don't run film anyway. They're digital projectors which run giant high-quality (much higher than HD) digital files. I've heard about the movies being transported a couple of ways -- on physical media (like a hard drive) or electronic file transfers.

But yeah, shipping films around, when they're actual film prints, is horrendously costly. I worked for a delivery company who had a contract to occasionally pick up movies at the airport and take them to the theater. Those things are giant and heavy and are usually flown on direct flights, often under false names to protect them. I wish I had kept track of some of the fake names attached to major blockbuster film prints. They were pretty hilarious.
posted by hippybear at 7:43 PM on May 24, 2011


Roger Ebert has just written an essay, The Dying of the Light on this topic that is well worth the read.
posted by fairmettle at 2:26 PM on May 26, 2011


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