One of the reason that the exhibition industry has problems promoting digital cinema is because to laud the visual quality improvement that digital offers is tantamount to admitting that analogue projection in most cinemas is appalling. Typically the picture is all too often dim, scratched, out of focus, unsteady and badly framed. But the average cinema audience only complains when the sound goes bad too. I have myself embarrassed my wife on many occasions by being the only one to stand up, walk out and tell the projectionist that the light shining in the projection booth is washing out the image on the screen. And that’s in the UK, which still has reasonably competent projectionists. In the US it is even worse.
Sun-Sentinel film critic Ty Burr has had enough and included the poor quality of most cinema shows in his ‘A list of resolutions for the multiplex‘:
?Agitate for improved theater projection. I finally caught up with Enchanted the other day, taking my wife and daughters. We liked what we could see of the movie — the part that wasn’t obscured by big, hairy chunks of fuzz along the sides and top of the picture. When we left, the manager wasn’t around, so I told a few of the ticket-takers that the gate in Theater No. 7 needed cleaning. They looked at me like I had two heads. The state of the art of non-union projection in this country is at a pitiful low, but it’ll never change unless the audience — that’s you — demands it to. How can you do that, though, when any sense of a benchmark “good image” has been lost? Make a stink anyway; why else are you paying $4.50 for that bottle of water?
We can blame cinema owners for cutting costs and running Xenon bulbs at half brightness levels, but if you stay at home waiting for the Blu-Ray release of your favourite film to watch on your 42-inch home cinema wonder instead of complaining to the cinema manager, you only have yourself to blame in the end. Digital won’t change that.
As a companion piece, here you can find Dear Santa: A Cinema Manager’s Wish List (caps removed). I particularly like the fourth item, “4. Solar powered cell phones that don’t work in the dark.” Though the fifth seems the most heart felt.