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A New Years' Resolution for Movie Theaters: Improve the Presentation

Posted on Tuesday, January 3rd, 2012 3:01 PM

In the Journal article titled "2011's Box Office Woe and What Could/Should be Done About It" the issue of lower theater attendance in 2011 than in the previous 16 years was discussed. Following is one of a series of ideas for how theaters can make 2012 a better year.

Resolution #1: Offer flawless presentations with the best possible image and sound quality

First and foremost, the primary responsibility of any commercial movie theater is to deliver a better presentation that is possible in anyone's home. And I do mean, anyone's home. No home theater hobbyist should be able to create something better in their basement than a corporation building a multimillion dollar facility whose only job it is to show movies to the paying public.

The screen should be adequately sized to provide for the proper viewing angles for a majority of the seats. THX recommends that the farthest seat in the auditorium have a 36 degree viewing angle. This means that a 45-50 foot deep auditorium should have a 30 foot wide screen. The next time you are waiting for the movie to begin, count ceiling tiles and see if the depth of the theater is about 1.5 times the width of the screen. Personally, I prefer a 40-50 degree viewing angle, which puts me at about 1.2 times the width of the screen away.

Putting the image on the screen is getting easier with the proliferation of Digital Cinema Projection systems. Dirt, dust, jump (vertical movement), and weave (horizontal movement) are all indicators of someone in the theater not caring about the product they are offering. A brand new print should not have visible dirt on the second day of presentation, but it happens. That's why most people prefer Digital Cinema presentations, because so many theaters couldn't do film right.

However, there are still ways to get it wrong, like bad focus, projecting the image onto the curtains, showing a widescreen (2.35:1) movie letterboxed on a screen that was built for 1.85 movies only (often so that the theater can brag about "wall-to-wall screens"), and letting light from the auditorium spill onto the screen and washing out the image. These are all things that are under the theater's control, and if they exist, it means that the theater doesn't care about delivering the best possible presentation to you, the paying public.

The sound system should be sufficiently loud, but undistorted. The bass should rumble through your stomach like the drums at a parade when it's called for, and the dialog should always be understandable. Some people complain about movies being too loud for their taste, when it's really too distorted and that's what's causing it to be unpleasant. Sound equipment is too good and too inexpensive for this to be a problem in any theater, so it's up to theaters to purchase good equipment, calibrate it on a regular basis, and maintain it to assure excellent performance.

What do you think?

What are your thoughts about going to the movies in 2011 and 2012? Are you going more or less than you did in the past? What's the biggest issues you've run into? What do you like most? Are ticket prices too high? Should theaters stop charging extra for 3D movies?

Leave a comment below and let us know your thoughts!

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Please Note: These comments are submitted by the readers of The BigScreen Cinema Guide and represent their own personal opinions, and do not represent the views of The BigScreen Cinema Guide, or any of its associated entities.

Jan 3, 2012 - Ron Higgins VIP Member

On the issue of up-charging for 3D movies, once can understand that it was done for two reasons. a) the cost of the new projection equipment, and b) the cost of the glasses

Now that many theaters have changed the rest of their screens over to digital projection, they can't justify an up-charge on that basis any longer.

As for the cost of the glasses, what needs to happen here is that if you need them, you buy them at an extra charge, but if you bring them back to the next 3D showing, you aren't charged any extra. The downside to that plan is that there are several different competing 3D formats out there, and you have to know which set of glasses are for which type of 3D system. Unless you always go to the same theater with the same system, you'll need several pairs of these glasses until the 3D people settle on one type of system (not likely to happen)

Bottom line today is that most "3D" movies are better in 2D instead, so save yourself the extra dough, and see it in a regular theater. 

Jan 4, 2012 - BigScreen Reader  

Want to see some amazing home theaters? Check out the web site for Theo Kalomirakis:


Ever see a commercial theater built in the last 50 years look like any of those? 

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