Terrence Malick's Instructions for Projectionists Showing 'Tree of Life'
One of my most common complaints at too many movie theaters is in regards to the projection being off, whether it's too dim, out of focus, poorly framed, not loud enough, or something to that effect (which ruins it for me). Apparently master filmmaker Terrence Malick isn't too happy about these problems either, and since he can't personally show up in the shadows of every movie theater currently showing his new Palme d'Or winning film The Tree of Life (full release schedule on Fox Searchlight's site), he has put out a simple guide, a set of instructions, for projectionists to follow to ensure truly perfect presentation. Read on!
These instructions come from the San Diego Reader website, where Scott Marks republishes the letter that Malick sent "to the attention of every projectionist" showing The Tree of Life. Apparently he starts out by saying that "proper theatre projection is fast becoming a forgotten art" (which I totally agree with) and then goes on to tell the projectionists to consider the following guidelines while showing his film. They are:
1. Project the film in its proper 1.85:1 aspect ratio.
2. The correct fader setting on Dolby and DTS systems is 7. Malick asks that faders be kept at 7.5 or even 7.7, system permitting.
3. The film has no opening credits, and the booth operator is asked to make sure the "lights down cue is well before the opening frame of reel 1."
4. With all the recent talk of "darkier, lousier" images, operators are asked that lamps are at "proper standard (5400 Kelvin)" and that the "foot Lambert level is at Standard 14."
You tell 'em, Malick! Now if only every projectionist at every movie theater, even those making minimum wage, would follow these rules for every print and make sure every theater is up to spec, then maybe people would be more willing to go out to see movies in theaters again. This reminds me of when George Lucas had a certification system for theaters back when Star Wars was being shown, to make sure that every theater was always up to spec and projecting the best quality at all times. Why isn't there a certification system like this in place today? Any idea? Everyone knows a movie can easily be ruined by careless projection issues, and Malick's right in relentlessly pursuing the best projection—that long, lost "forgotten art"—for his film.
Plus, if there's any film that demands truly perfect presentation, it's The Tree of Life, that's for sure. It's gorgeous to watch and the cinematography in it is sure to get some awards acclaim later this year. If you're planning on seeing it at all, make sure you catch it in theaters before that opportunity goes away forever.