Call to Action: Bad Theater Experiences
by Alex Billington
November 26, 2006
I know this topic has been discussed endlessly earlier in the year, but I have a strong urge to bring it up again because of my own bad experiences. Also because our site is all about improving the theatrical experience so that when you go to the theater and watch a movie you love, it's incomparable to anything ever possible at home. I love when that happens, and I love when I'm watching a film and am just drawn in to its visual and aural excellence more than anything I've ever felt before. I'll admit I am a bit spoiled. When I go to press screenings and there's 10 of us in the audience, they tend to put a bit more effort in making sure every little detail is perfect. But that makes it much worse when I go and experience the complete opposite.
Yes, a good time at the theater during Pirates of the Caribbean 2!
Recently I went and saw The Fountain again on its opening day with a regular crowd. A great film, and I wanted to relive the power of it again, as the experience of it is only possible in a theater on a huge screen with amazing sound. However I noticed the problem right off the bat - out of focus during the trailers, and I mean really out of focus. So I run out and tell the manager nearby to get a projectionist up there to fix it. I go back in and watch him try and tweak the focus during the trailers. Text is the only thing to test focus on, and finally some comes up, and it's a complete blur, so he tries to quickly pull it back before the text disappears. Eventually after 5 minutes he leaves and the result: it's worse than before he started. I had to sit through The Fountain completely out of focus, and it was awful. I know those projectionists have to monitor 14 screens between 2 of them, but seriously, is he that blind? How hard is it to take just a few minutes to make sure it's in focus. Even do it before the trailers start so he's not rushing during the movie and making it worse.
Next I went to see The Queen again, another great film. This time everything about it was off. The focus was awful again; letters had really fuzzy edges. The framing was completely wrong, the heads were always cut off; I felt like I was watching the top 1/4 of the screen the entire time. And even the sound was bad, really hollow and quiet. A completely ruined experience for what is a beautiful film (that I had luckily seen before). And again, I don't want to run out and miss any of the movie, and even if I had, what can they do? At that point, without risking completely stopping the movie, they can only do so much, and that likely wouldn't have fixed it.
These two bad theater experiences completely ruined my time there. And the worst is I felt everyone around me could not have enjoyed the film as much as possible. You can't get immersed into a film when it's such an awful experience. And in turn you start to dislike the movie. All I want to do is promote the better movies and hope that other people go see them and enjoy them as well. And when I sit there and realize everyone else can't have as good of a reaction because the experience is appalling, then any hope for that film is nearly destroyed. It's biting right back at the studios, because their movies are losing viewers all because of simple problems from the theater.
It seems like it's not improving at all - only getting worse. Theaters think they can continue to take more and more advantage of you. You pay $10-$15 for a ticket and in turn you're served countless ads everywhere you go, overly-expensive popcorn, and the worst of all, an experience not even worth half the cost of a ticket. The least they can do is put a little bit of extra care and concern into the experience, and improve it with a bit of effort. Yea they have minimum wage staff, but promote incentives and better motivation just to get them to improve your experience. Get qualified projectionists and individuals who feel bad themselves when they know an audience isn't viewing a movie at it's optimum level (I know I would). Simple things like those - why can't they work on that? Where is all that $3 candy and $6 popcorn money going?
It's now time for a call to action. I invite all of you out there to post a comment with your awful theater experiences, because this is part of the process to help publicize and eventually improve the system. Please make sure you mention the name of the chain. Particular theater chains that are worse than others need to be ousted. They need to recognize their problems and improve! I can't stress enough how much you all will enjoy your theater experiences and movies much more once you begin to experience them the way they should be seen.
Bring out your bad experiences!