May 23, 2011

Let There Be Light

Ty Burr sheds light on too-dark digital movie screenings

“I walked into the room and I could barely see, and my stomach dropped...The first screening looked spectacular and the second was so dark, it was daytime versus nighttime. If they’re doing this for a big screening, I can’t imagine what they do for regular customers. That’s no way to see a movie." --Bobby Farrelly
If you haven't read Ty Burr's exposé from Page 1 of the Sunday Globe, read that first and prepared to be appalled.

I am appalled, but not surprised. As my wife says, its like escaped monkeys are running the theaters. It takes a lot of guts to fleece customers for $10 (or more) for 2D, and $15 for 3D, and then screw them again with a subpar exhibition. Digital projection is supposed to be the golden age of moviegoing- no more scratchy or blurry prints, perfect digital sound! A few years ago the exhibitors were squawking about how expensive it would be to refit all their screens to digital. Well, they fixed that problem! Sign a contract and accept free projectors from Sony! But wait, the Sony projectors can't easily be switched from 3D to 2D. Ty Burr's Page 1 article might exert some pressure on the theaters, but I am also not surprised that paying customers aren't noticing. And even if they notice, no one wants to ruin a night out by complaining to a powerless drone at the customer service desk who won't pass your complaint along anyway.

I can't say for sure that I have witnessed this witlessness firsthand, and that's ironically due to the price of 3D movies. I prefer to see the 2D version of a movie, and since AMC and Regal don't offer that option anymore, I end up at The Somerville Theater, where the 2D is only $8, and you can drink beer. No contest! Over the last 18 months, I have only been to Showcase, AMC, and Regal Cinemas for 2D screenings eight times. One of those was Harry Potter 7.1, but that was in the Showcase Cinema Du Lux Level, where they leave the lights on at 20% so people can see their food, so the screening was ruined anyway. Another was The Book of Eli, at Regal Fenway's Screen 2, which was not likely a 3D projector in January 2010.

What's my takeaway? Steer clear of AMC and Regal, and hope this 3D fad blows over.

SIDE NOTE: the Boston.com website is so badly organized. The article, which was featured on Page 1 of the Sunday Globe, is not featured on the Boston.com movies page: there IS a link to it in the bottommost secion of the page, in a list of links "More from the Globe". Wouldn't a Page 1 story about moviegoing merit top billing on the Movies home page? The article is not included in the Boston.com Movie Nation blog where all of Ty Burr and Wesley Morris' other posts go, and it's not in the Culture Desk blog either. Is there any human being involved with this website?

At first I thought they had deleted the helpful infographic which accompanied the article in the paper. When my Dad emailed a link to the article online, the graphic is missing. It turns out the article is presented on Boston.com in two different places: the link my Dad sent me is from articles.boston.com; the link at the bottom of the Boston.com Movies page is from www.boston.com, and it includes the infographic.

I know that the Globe is transforming their entire web site to a half-paywall model like their parent New York Times. Perhaps they're not spending any time on the current site because it's getting torn down anyway? Why paint the walls on a building if it's being demolished in 6 months, right? Well, who's going to want to pay for a new Boston.com if the free Boston.com was so disappointing?