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What's wrong with this picture? Plenty 25 Jun 2011 12:32 #36567

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Biz needs to commit to better quality in theaters

Memo to the movie industry: The first step toward recovery, as AA has taught the world, is admitting you have a problem.
Well, you definitely have a problem: You are making a highly polished product, but that polish isn't making it to your customers. You see bright clear images in your screening rooms but many auds get murky, fuzzy pictures -- and, if they're watching 3D, they pay extra for it.

And, judging by the response to my last column, where I suggested that movie theaters need to make the same commitment to quality as the Apple Stores do, you haven't admitted it -- not all of you, at least. (Par is acknowledging the 3D brightness problem by sending out 2,000 digital prints of "Transformers 3" graded for twice the usual brightness of a 3D theater. But they can't go into all 3D theaters because some aren't bright enough.)

You already know you have this problem, by the way. You're just choosing not to do anything about it. Odds are, if you make movies, you're unhappy with what you see in civilian movie theaters.

There's dim projection, but I also hear stories of 3D pictures being shown with the left and right eyes flipped, and of improper framing, and of masks left off projectors, and all kinds of sound problems.

Maybe you read Terrence Malick's projection instructions for "The Tree of Life," which appeared on the Internet. Malick wrote: "With all the recent talk of 'darkier (sic), lousier' images, operators are asked that lamps are at 'proper standard (5400 Kelvin)' and that the 'foot Lambert level is at Standard 14.' " Having to ask projectionists to hit 14 foot Lamberts of brightness is like having to ask American motorists to drive to the right side of the road.

Not your fault, you say? You're collecting the checks, so it's your responsibility. The product you are selling isn't what you see in the studio screening room, or even what you send out. It's what the audience sees. It's as if you're bottling a fine Bordeaux but your consumers are being poured Two Buck Chuck.

If you're in exhibition, you're probably bristling at this. I got a bunch of emails from exhibs and NATO responding to my column. Most were either denial or hand-wringing. One message said "This is ridiculous -- everyone I know in the industry is trying their best to light up their screens and put their best foot forward." Another predicted a shakeout and consolidation, where only big chains would be able to upgrade.

Then there was this note from a single-screen theater owner in the Midwest: "I too have experienced many cruddy exhibitions in my moviegoing life. A horrendous experience at a movie theater was one of my inspirations for becoming an exhibitor. At my theater, we strive to give our audience the best possible exhibition that we can afford. And those last four words are key: 'that we can afford.'?"

He added that state-of-the-art upgrades are simply beyond his means.

"There is no doubt that the peak of the exhibition industry is over," he went on to say. "Costs are up (you should see my power bill), attendance is down, and it's increasingly difficult to get a jaded audience to make the effort to come to a theater. Certainly exhibitors hurt themselves with poor presentation, but to imply that the answer to our problems are huge investments in equipment and maintenance is to ignore the financial facts."

I'm not as pessimistic as that about theaters and exhibition. But box office has been flat for several years, despite 3D and Imax, and now there's talk about the need to "save" 3D. I happen to think 3D is worth saving, but even if it goes away tomorrow, you still have to find way to maintain quality all the way to your customers' eyes and ears.

Most of you, whether in production, distribution and exhibition, know this is a problem. A few of you are pushing for change. You need to push harder. The competition from television, home theater and the Internet is only growing fiercer. If you choose to do nothing, your audience will continue to drift into indifference -- and away from your theaters.
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Re: What's wrong with this picture? Plenty 24 Jul 2011 04:36 #36710

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In short there is nothing original out there and people are tired of seeing the same thing over and over and endless sequels, remakes and Superhero movies!!!!!!!!! Same thing with theatre owners...you have to be original with programing and offer your viewers special events!
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Re: What's wrong with this picture? Plenty 24 Jul 2011 15:58 #36711

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Boy jacker5! With thinking like that I can tell you'll be in business for a long time. That is as long as somebody in the world is making decent product. Good luck and hang in there. We need more thinkers like you and less who accept anything "Hollywood" throws at them.
Bob Allen
The Old Showman
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