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» Film-Tech Forum   » Operations   » Ground Level   » End of proper wide screens = the end of moviegoing for me (Page 1)

 
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Author Topic: End of proper wide screens = the end of moviegoing for me
Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1498
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Aug 2000


 - posted 12-04-2016 06:01 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I hope this is the proper section to post this, apologies if it isn't. (Since it's mainly a decision made at Ground Level, I decided to post it here.) I know this has been discussed before but it can't be discussed enough in the current climate.

The trend of installing screens that were natively 1.85, with top-down masking for scope movies was bad enough, but now the trend has gotten even worse as many theaters are now showing 2.35 movies letterboxed with NO masking at all! This ruins the whole point of shooting movies in that format, as they are supposed to look BIGGER and WIDER than 1.85, and a letterboxed presentation makes the experience more like home video than a theater. (I personally tolerate letterboxing at home, but some people have installed 2.35 screens in their living rooms, showing more dedication than theater owners.)

I've spoken here before about Cinemark's new theater in Sacramento, built to replace the 1960s Century domes which in their prime had majestic wide screens. I had publicly pushed to ensure that this new theater would compare to the older one, but I visited it on its opening day and saw that ALL 14 of its screens are 1.85 with NO masking- and most of the movies they are currently showing are in 2.35! The opening of this theater has gotten a lot of fanfare, but those behind it should be ashamed and embarrassed, as should the media outlets who've given it free publicity but haven't called this out. I've seen my first and last movie at this theater.

I've also heard that both Cinemark and Regal now make it POLICY to not mask their screens, even on ones already equipped with masking! I saw this a year or so ago when seeing a free advance showing at Regal's Natomas Marketplace in Sacramento, where I was booth manager from 2000-2001 (I posted quite a bit on here why I ended up leaving that job.) It looked awful, like something was broken. If I'd had a flashlight, I would've gone behind the screen and set the masking properly. At the new Cinemark, I saw "Arrival" which had a lot of dark scenes. As the entire screen was lit up, that made it hard to "ignore" the black space at the top and bottom of the screen, again making it more like home video than a theater. Although I was pleasantly surprised by the size of the screen (it's actually comparable to the original domes that I'd hoped would be restored), letterboxing is a deal-breaker and I won't be going back. On top of that, it seems EVERY movie they were showing there was in 2.35, so why weren't the proper screens installed for them? I was able to talk to the projection manager there, who said "that's just the way new theaters are these days." If that's the case, I will simply stop going to theaters altogether and watch movies at home, where the presentation isn't perfect but at least it's more cost-effective and convenient for me. Cinemark promotes this as a "Next-Gen" theater, but I'll gladly take the last gen if that's the case! If there were a truly great theater in this area I would attend it on a weekly basis, but no theater meets that standard and this new one is proof that they aren't even TRYING. In fact by making this "policy", I'd say they're trying to make the moviegoing experience as mediocre as possible. It's no wonder why I got out of the business 15 years ago despite having a great love for it; the level of stupidity seems to know no bounds. The higher-ups seem determined to make "policies" that degrade the experience, but none that enhance it or even keep it up to minimum standards.

The movie theater is dead- long live home theater.

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Louis Bornwasser
Film God

Posts: 4426
From: prospect ky usa
Registered: Mar 2005


 - posted 12-04-2016 10:55 AM      Profile for Louis Bornwasser   Author's Homepage   Email Louis Bornwasser   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
The "smart ones" left the industry. The left overs became corporate management.

They now have control and will not listen to engineers and tech experts. This trend started about 20-25 years ago.

This is the only industry I know where you start as a respected professional and end as an errand boy with no input. (Death of a thousand cuts.)

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Sam Graham
AKA: "The Evil Sam Graham". Wackiness ensues.

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From: Waukee, IA
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 - posted 12-04-2016 02:42 PM      Profile for Sam Graham   Author's Homepage   Email Sam Graham   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Jesse Skeen
I was able to talk to the projection manager there...
The what? Are you suggesting that's actually an active job title at a modern digital cinema? Brad could run that whole booth remotely from an app on his digital refrigerator.

Face it...probsbly less than one one-hundredth of paying patrons so much as notice, let alone care. The only mechanical movement involved in presentation anymore is those motorized recliners.

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Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1498
From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Aug 2000


 - posted 12-04-2016 03:17 PM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Yes, they actually had a projection manager there- I was surprised. Likely because it was the first day of the place being open and they wanted to make sure everything was at least working.

And yes, it's very sad how little of the public cares. The fact that network TV has been an unwatchable mess for almost 20 years now says a lot, as do the large number of people who don't know how to properly set their TVs. But theaters should remain a place where things are always done right, and now they truly no longer are. You'd think at least with the home video window continually shrinking, theaters would want to step up their game if they want people to go there rather than wait just a short time to see the same movies at home.

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Connor Wilson
Expert Film Handler

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From: Sterling, VA, USA
Registered: Jan 2011


 - posted 12-04-2016 07:22 PM      Profile for Connor Wilson   Email Connor Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Jesse, I don't know the state of affairs in Sacramento, but for me there is still hope. A month ago, Alamo Drafthouse just opened their location in Brooklyn and you couldn't believe how much joy I felt when entering one of their screens for the first time. HUGE Common HEIGHT flat screen close to the walls and ceiling, and it definitely looked like they were capable for motorized masking. They had the Sony projectors (the good, newer ones) and the light output in scope was phenomenal for such a big screen. I asked a cleaning lady after a show if there were anamorphic lenses used, and she said "uh-huh." I'll take it with a grain of salt since I don't think she was an IT person who worked there. I was good friends with the IT manager of their Ashburn, VA location, but I have yet to meet the IT behind the Brooklyn theater. I believe there are people who still give a damn about them masking and presentaion. I know the Alamo folks do.

And I know I'm going in here with an unpopular opinion, but I don't mind common width screens. As long as they mask a scope movie properly, I have no quarrel, albeit the picture is smaller, but I think it's a reflection of the technology today. In digital cinema, Flat has more resolution than Scope. It's the other way around in the world of 35mm, but that's the state of affairs. The DCI specifications as we know then today are 11 years old. How's Whedon's Serenity, the first commercial feature to conform with the specs, is turning 11 this month. Personally, I would have projectors with a sensor closer to 4:3 than 16:9, and have the scope movies stretch to the full height of the chip, and corrected with an anamorphic lens, but that's for the next generation.

And I bet you DCI Scope would look worse on a common height screen than a common width screen. You're not only enlarging lost resolution, you're losing light too. Two screens of an indie theater I frequent are common height, and they are equipped with 2K DLP projectors. American Honey, a Flat film, looked fantastic on that kind of screen when projected and masked for Flat (the movie was in 1.37:1, so it wasn't masked all the way. phooey). Moonlight, a Scope film, took advantage of the common height screen, but the pixel grid was much more visible, being from a 2K projector. I still find it a quaint place to see a certain kind of movie I wouldn't have to trek out to the city to see.

Today I caught up with two of my uncles to see Doctor Strange at the AMC Palisades 21. It was recently renovated with power recliner seats and a digital IMAX. We saw it in Theater #8, standard, RealD 3D, Sony 4K, QSC 5.1, but a very interesting wide screen. I'm not sure what the ratio was, but it could be somewhere between 2.00:1 and 2.20:1. It's curved on the edges and no masking! The image between the black bars looked like a smiley face! It really showed me that from one chain to another, it's a different world to see movies. Why would theaters have maskless screens? Does digital fare well with it because it doesn't have an edge feather effect like unmasked film projection? Does it save money? Why the hell is it policy to leave it unmasked? If the home theater and movie theater are becoming one, why can't we buy a ticket to publicly binge-watch Modern Family?

But there is still hope. People like me are starting to go into the workforce and as a reaction to this rise of mediocrity we can put an end to it. The best movie theater in Loudoun County thrives on the technical knowledge of a 22-year-old. That makes me happy, as a 21-year-old.

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Buck Wilson
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From: St. Joseph MO, USA
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 - posted 12-04-2016 07:41 PM      Profile for Buck Wilson   Email Buck Wilson   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
I think people know. Even if they can't say "Ugh I paid to watch a fuckin letterboxed movie?" I think there's a real sense of "cheapness" when everything in a modern theater comes together. Like there's less magic than there once was. Something's missing.

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Mark Ogden
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From: Little Falls, N.J.
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 - posted 12-04-2016 08:21 PM      Profile for Mark Ogden   Email Mark Ogden   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
If you follow trends in cinematography at all, especially in art/alternative/foreign circles, then you know by now that masking is a concept that is becoming quaint, if not downright pointless. For example, there is a film playing around arthouses right now called I Am Not Madame Bovary. For most of its length the frame is circular, that is, all the action is viewed as it you were looking through a telescope (a still is below). Eventually, the frame becomes square, and then widescreen. How do you mask for that? For whatever artistic reason, many directors are playing around with variable aspect ratios within the same film. While a properly masked image is a very nice thing it is becoming obvious that it is no longer a real consideration among filmmakers that want to produce unusual effects, and to insist on it or make it a deal breaker may well rob you of the experience of a great movie presented in an otherwise top-notch venue. The terrifically entertaining Grand Budapest Hotel is one such example.

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Jesse Skeen
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From: Sacramento, CA
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 - posted 12-04-2016 08:42 PM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
For movies with changing aspect ratios, of course those have to be stated how to mask them for. I believe "Grand Budapest Hotel" came with instructions on that. There have been plenty of 35mm movies with changing ratios also, but meant to be projected with the masking set to one specific format.

I've seen a number of digital 2.35 movies on proper wide screens and they looked OK to me, though not as good as proper 35mm would have obviously. It was simply a mistake to make DCP's native ratio 1.85 in the first place with no anamorphic option, but if you're going to run a theater with that the screens should still be the proper ratio- otherwise what's the point of shooting in scope? If I were a filmmaker or theater owner I'd be pushing for those specs to change, possibly even continuing to run movies on 35mm whenever they were still available for that reason.

An unmasked screen simply looks sloppy and unprofessional- that might be tolerable at home since that's an instance where you often have to settle for doing the best with what you have, but it's entirely unacceptable to pay current theater prices and see that, regardless of how clean and shiny the rest of the theater is. No amount of time making your floor staff sweep the floors and clean stuff will change the fact that your screens are WRONG.

I've never been to an Alamo Drafthouse, I've heard they do things right but I'm not a fan of the whole dine-in concept. We do have a Studio Movie Grill nearby which I've heard has proper screens, but I've heard they keep the lights up partway through the movie so people can eat and be served. I'd rather eat elsewhere (for less money) before or after the movie.

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Mike Spaeth
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From: Hampton, GA
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 - posted 12-04-2016 10:11 PM      Profile for Mike Spaeth   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Spaeth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
There you have it, from Jesse Skeen, the man who never met a change he didn't hate! I'm sure they'll miss your money at what appears to be the #2 theatre in the Sacramento DMA.

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Michael Brown
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From: Bradford, England
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 - posted 12-05-2016 02:55 PM      Profile for Michael Brown   Email Michael Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
What's happened is that over the last 20 years the general public have been trained that black bars on the top and bottom are normal for a movie.

20 years ago everyone at home were watching 4:3 pan and scan VHS tapes, or 4:3 tv broadcasts of movies on 4:3 television, then DVD came out and introduced everyone to letterboxing and people did whine and complain about letterboxing for several years until it was accepted. Fast forward to 2016 everone has 16:9 tv's but happily watch letterbox 'scope movies without probably even noticing the black bars.

People put fake black bars on stuff to make them look like movies - I'm seeing more and more TV commercials usualy for expensive cars and such that are framed at 2:35. Sometimes you are watching a TV show and they have a scene that is supposed to look like you are watching a movie - so what do they - letterbox it. That's why they get away with it.

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Manny Knowles
"What are these things and WHY are they BLUE???"

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 - posted 12-05-2016 03:26 PM      Profile for Manny Knowles   Email Manny Knowles   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Scope AR hasn't been 2.35 in years. Or are y'all refusing to get with the program?

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Michael Brown
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From: Bradford, England
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 - posted 12-05-2016 07:18 PM      Profile for Michael Brown   Email Michael Brown   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
ok 2.39 [Smile]

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Jesse Skeen
Phenomenal Film Handler

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From: Sacramento, CA
Registered: Aug 2000


 - posted 12-06-2016 05:52 AM      Profile for Jesse Skeen   Email Jesse Skeen   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
quote: Mike Spaeth
There you have it, from Jesse Skeen, the man who never met a change he didn't hate! I'm sure they'll miss your money at what appears to be the #2 theatre in the Sacramento DMA.
Wow, it's #2 after just 4 days being open? (Which theater here is #1?) And you're proud that the public accepts mediocrity? Congratulations.

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Mike Spaeth
Phenomenal Film Handler

Posts: 1109
From: Hampton, GA
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 - posted 12-06-2016 08:38 AM      Profile for Mike Spaeth   Author's Homepage   Email Mike Spaeth   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
Elk Grove - Laguna 16 was the top theatre in the market last weekend.

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Jonathan Goeldner
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From: Washington, District of Columbia
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 - posted 12-06-2016 10:13 AM      Profile for Jonathan Goeldner   Email Jonathan Goeldner   Send New Private Message       Edit/Delete Post 
oh and "La La Land' is gonna muck it all up with it's 2.55 wide screen imagery/framing [Wink]

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