Today’s mailbag points to one of my personal pet peeves. Last week I said that nothing would destroy the cinema, but I think I might have found the most likely culprit.
What’s the worst movie-going experience you’ve ever had? Bad movie, bad audience, whatever. I love movies but hate going to them because everyone sucks. Is there even a need to go to the multiplex or indie cinema now that we have unlimited access to virtually everything we want?
I’ve certainly had my fair share of bad audiences and bad movies before, but nothing as pervasive as the terrible disarray the theaters of America have fallen into. I had actually temporarily forgotten this when I was living in Toronto. Canada’s Cineplex franchise may have a disturbingly monopolistic stranglehold on the film screening market, but boy do they ever maintain their standards. I didn’t notice a single technical issue the entire time I was there.
But in America? Fuggedaboutit! Back when I lived in San Diego, I had to carefully choose which theater I would patronize because nearly EVERY SINGLE ONE within driving distance had regularly (nauseatingly) mis-calibrated 3D or blown out speakers. I saw Ender’s Game in a Regal screening room that was missing its screen. Instead, there was a bare white wall with black seams running down it.
Now that I’m temporarily based out of a small town in Texas, the level of DGAF at the local theater is unbearable. For both of the last two movies I saw there (Independence Day: Resurgence and The BFG), the lights remained on when the movie started and the staff had to be reminded to turn them off. For Independence Day, the lights came back on before the movie ended, and the volume was turned off 30 seconds into the credits (while I waited patiently to see the names of my super talented friends on the big screen).
It’s gotten to the point where you can only expect the bare minimum out of a screening by going to a premium theater, and even then sometimes you run into places with bulky, uncomfortable, active 3D glasses. Hell… I’ve been to IMAX screenings that have significantly screwed up the 3D projection of films I’ve worked on. How would you like to see the frame synced to the audio in your left eye and the one from a few seconds ago in your right? Maybe everything in your left eye is slightly bigger, or less in focus than your right. Maybe the image spread is distorted so everything is flying out of the screen, even during quiet scenes.
It’s no wonder 3D is seen as a sickening gimmick in the U.S.
If you care enough, and you have $3000-$5000 USD to drop, you can absolutely get a better experience than most American theaters will give you at home. Hell… you can buy a 4k (cinema resolution) OLED (perfect inky black) 3D television for $2000 now [see the link below!]. It requires research, calibration, and patience, but for disenfranchised cinephiles, it’s absolutely worth the time and investment. Because you’re absolutely right, Carol. There’s more access at home to amazing content than ever before. Why wouldn’t we enjoy that in the privacy of our homes for an upfront investment when the local cinema could care less about giving us a good experience?
What’s your worst theater experience? Let us know in the comments section, and email us all your entertainment related questions and theories at firstname.lastname@example.org!