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my latest situation.... 11 Sep 2004 23:03 #21969

  • leeler
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Ok, here's the situation. A studio (who shall remain nameless) sent me a copy of their film this week. As I began making up the print I noticed that there was damage on the film. It looked like the film somehow went through the projector without going through the sprocket holes. It made it wavy and cut up near the sprocket holes. This damaged the sountrack portion of the film. I tried playing it and it also went in and out of focus. This went on for about ten minutes worth of film (part on reel one and part on reel two) before it sorted itself out and got back "in the groove" so to speak. So, I figure, this is no good and as it is starting to get towards the end of the day I better get on the horn and see about a replacement print. I call my lovely studio rep and tell him/her about it. The next day a replacement print comes and I rush like mad to get it put togethor before my first matinee. So far, so good. Things like this have happened before and they will happen again.

However, when this happened before from a different studio (who shall also remain nameless) they picked up the tab for shipping the damaged print (both ways) which, I feel is equitable. Truth be told the depot which is supposed to screen for this sort of damage is the one who I think should pick up the tab but, second on the list would be the studio, in my book. In any case, back to my story.

When I call back this studio and gently suggest that they should pay for the shipping of their damaged print they flat out accuse me of causing the damage?!?! What the #$%@@????? I do the utmost to every print that is under my care and frankly, I return prints in better (sometimes way way WAY better) shape then when I receive them. OK, if he/she wants to stiff-arm me on the shipping charges, then OK, I'm the little guy go ahead and shove me around some if it makes you feel tough, but, I'm sorry, I don't need the accusation on top of it all too. OK, rant over (parents you can now bring your children back into the room).

Anywho. My questions here are multi-faceted.

A). First of all, should I do anything about this accursed rep? If I do, do I incur their wrath from here to eternity? If I don't, will they walk all over me even more so than they do already?

B). The next facet is technical and is why I put it in this area of the forum. Here are some of the things I do when making up a print. I remove all of the old splices and re-apply them. I look for lab splices and add a tape splice for added protection. I make up the film and hold the edges to feel for worn or damaged areas. I never use masking tape like 95% of the films I receive use. I reattach the correct heads and tails to each reel when I’m finished. I remove all cue tape. I also run every print through a film cleaner and use filmguard. What else should I be doing?

C). Last facet of the question (for you kids looking for extra credit). For those of you who receive used prints, how picky are you? I think in this case it was clear as it was highly distracting to watch and listen to. On another case the film was marked with white paint or shoe polish or white out or some such crud and it dripped down all over the soundtrack portionand stuck it togethor in a few areas. But in one other case I can recall it was just a section of film that was removed. I couldn't tell how long the section removed section was because it switched over to a new scene. It could have been just a few frames or it could have been several minutes worth of film. Is there any golden rule you use when determining when to call in a bad print? I figure I am one of the last theaters to get a particular print so I probably see more damage then is normal and thus, it shouldn't be too surpising that I call in bad prints more than many theaters but I also don't want to get a reputation for whining either.

Thanks, as always, for your valuable insight. Sorry for the length of this post.

[This message has been edited by leeler (edited September 12, 2004).]
"What a crazy business"
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 00:01 #21970

  • Ken Layton
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I'd be screaming bloody murder about the condition the print was received in. Be sure to always fill out a "film condition report" on every film you receive. When you get a bad print or bad reel fax that condition report to the distrib right away in addition to calling.

When your replacement reel or print shows up be sure to inspect it too as it's possible to get two bad ones in a row. When you ship back the 'defective' print you should enclose a copy of your condition report with it. I feel that you should only have to pay for shipping the 'playable' print and not for the defective print. If the distrib is on the ball, they'll track down where the print came from and (hopefully) chastise or bill them for the damage.
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 00:16 #21971

  • jacker5
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That is correct, since your second run that print has played out in the local multiplex for at least 2-4 weeks.
It should have been inspected when returned, before it was sent to you. They have on record who the last person who had it.
That person should be responsible for the print and pay for the back up print that had to be resent.
Negligence form unqualified projectionist and young teens hurrying up to go home is the cause of this type of problem. They mess up the print and freak out. Most of the times the print is returned to the film depot and destroyed but some print do go back out to second run and in that case you get held holding the ball!
Fight for your rights and demand a tracking of the feature and to be reimbursed for your second handling charge!

Jacker
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 00:52 #21972

  • muviebuf
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I have been in second run exhibition for 30 some years. There are several realities:

1.) The depots rarely (if ever) inspect anything. If you talk to the fellows who work there, they will candidly admit this. Generally the formal line is that "the studios are unwilling to pay for this level of service".

2.) The studios will never chastise anyone for print damage. The only time I have ever heard of an exhibitor being charged is when a first run theatre has caused the damage itself and must get a replacement reel (or print) in order to continue their first run engagement. As far the studios tracking down someone who has done damage to a print which is now in second run - that is a pipe dream! (Even if they were inclined, you really think they would piss off some big chain say like Regal just for your small complaint?)

3.) Lee you (like me) are bascially a weekend house. Sometimes you can not get replacements until Monday when the weekend is over. You have to learn how to deal with it.

4.) Sad to say but I am happy with almost anything semi-runable that does not have too many green scatches. Todays polester film generally does not break but rather bends. As a second run theatre owner you have to become an accomplished film editor -and good with an iron - it is a hell of lot easier than all the trouble of replacement prints.

5.) Crapped up prints are the prime reason I run DTS for sound.

6.) You would also do well to visit your local ETS depot once and awhile and meet the fellows who will ship those prints to you. Chances are they know what houses in their territory crap up prints and which ones don't. It also helps to bring them Xmas gifts; I personally like Hershey Golden Almond bars. For a couple of bucks I get a lot of good will and generally pristine prints from ETS.....Now if I could just do the same with Technicolor.

[This message has been edited by muviebuf (edited September 12, 2004).]
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 08:59 #21973

  • leeler
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Thanks for the posts, guys.

jacker, I agree that laziness and people itching to leave are the main culprits here. Nobody removes splices, they just cut them and then use masking tape to stick the heads and tails on.

'buf, tell me more about using an iron. I have wondered about this but have never tried it (I'd be sure to try it on an old trailer or something first). As for using DTS for sound I have seen just as many reels in the can riding on top of their DTS discs and bending them to fit around the inside of the can. I figure if my dolby fails at least I'll have the analog for back-up. One of the reasons I begin playing a print on a Thursday is that I can usually get some relief from the depot or the studio on Friday if all hell (or the film) breaks loose.

Ken, I have never seen a 'film condition report'. Is this something that you created or is their a form out there somewhere? I have received a bad copy for a replacement for a bad copy. In fact, I took the best from one bad copy and the best from the bad replacement copy to make one so-so copy. What a crazy business!
"What a crazy business"
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 18:41 #21974

  • outaframe
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Since you are a subrun, you will always receive prints which have played previously in other theaters, and you are unfortunately at the mercy of the last projectionist who played the print... And some of these guys are absolute BUTCHERS!... All of the previous posts are correct, and it is highly unlikely that you will receive ANY help from the film exchange OR the distributor's booker or sales rep... You booked a print, and IF you get one, they more or less wash their hands of any further involvement... Sadly, your customers are the ultimate losers, and of course, they don't understand or appreciate that YOU are NOT responsible for the damage and that you are going to great lengths to give them a flawless presentation... The ONLY good thing is that these problems aren't as common as they were 20-30 years ago... The "film condition report" was a form used by SOME distributors in the past, but the fact remains you can't tell what the print condition will be 'til you inspect it, and that can only happen AFTER you receive it, they can still try to blame you, and the ONLY thing that an inspection seal means is that someone stuck a sticker on the film before you got it!... Your best protection is an IMMEDIATE phone call to the distributor and a followup registered letter (with a return receipt) as SOON as you find the damage, hopefully BEFORE you try to put it onscreen... NOT even remotely reassuring nor foolproof, but at least demonstrates that you brought it to their attention, and that you CLAIM it happened BEFORE you received the print... This is ALL unfortunately part and parcel of playing subrun, and IF you discover THE ANSWER, please let the rest of us know!...
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Re: my latest situation.... 12 Sep 2004 22:30 #21975

  • rodeojack
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Most everything i could think of is covered above. Being on both sides of the fence, I've had to order replacement reels on first-run products. To date, this has always been due to print defects. I get the reels couriered in... no charge.

On sub-run shows, I generally get the same service, though I have had to pick up reels at the depot a couple of times. Technicolor has been as good at getting me sub-run replacements as with brand new product.

About the only things I could add to this are:

1. If you get a lot of circuits, try to eliminate those that butcher your prints. Ths studios may not want to charge the big guys for damaged goods, but you shouldn't have to get stuck with them because of studio laziness. I have a list of 4 that I will not accept circuits from under any circumstance. The odds of getting damaged prints from those theatres are about 90%.

2. If your budget allows, get yourself a Kelmar film cleaner (used ones are just fine)... and pick up some Film Guard cleaner and media rolls. This system is not for everyone... it costs $29+ per bottle, and the media is spendy, too. For those who've seen the results though, it usually becomes necessary booth equipment.

I usually get several "used" prints toward the end of my season. It continues to amaze me how this system can take a dirty print and make it look like it was first used here. It won't fix physical damage... sprocketing and the like, but it will take off the dirt and many surface scratches. I use it on my 3 drive-in screens and I really think the quality of my presentation darn near doubled (however you might quantify it).

In any case, getting someone else's prints can be a real frustration. Good luck!
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Re: my latest situation.... 13 Sep 2004 00:52 #21976

  • Barry Floyd
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Same type of thing happened with me when we opened Shrek 2.

In reel 1, there was clearly a printing defect as about 50-60 feet of the film was jet black. No picture, no sound. I didn't notice it when I put the print together, but once we went on screen with it to a sold-out crowd, about 12 minutes into reel 1, people starting coming up to the concessions stand or calling on their cell phones and asking us to "adjust the contrast & color"... By the time I got back to the booth, it was back to normal.. I just thought they must have been imagining something. The next night, same thing happened at exactly the same place in the reel. After the show was over, I inspected reel 1 and found the "black film". Called Technicolor and asked for a replacement reel. They sent instead a replacement print. The studio had Technicolor inpect the defective print and then turn the results over to the studio. Two weeks later I recieve a bill from the studio for $560.00 for damaging reels 2, 3 & 5.

I called Technicolor and asked to receive a copy of the inspection report. When I got it, it said... LAB PRINTING DEFECT - REEL ONE. That's it. Nothing in the report about reels 2, 3 & 5.

I threw the bill from the studio in the trash, been playing their other features all summer long, and haven't heard a word from them.
Barry Floyd
Floyd Entertainment Group
Lebanon, Tennessee

Stardust Drive-In Theatre
Watertown, Tennessee
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Re: my latest situation.... 13 Sep 2004 11:22 #21977

  • leeler
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I guess what I want to hear is that there is some ray of hope. What I think I'm hearing however, is that the chains hire kids who don't care, they pass off the damaged prints to the depots who don't care who report to the studios who don't care either. What a frustrating situation!

Somehow there ought to be something that can be done. I think it has to start with the studios. They need to somehow let the exhibitor chains know that they are watching and they ought to make them feel some pain when they screw up. It doesn't need to be a lot of pain but it should be enough to give them notice.

[This message has been edited by leeler (edited September 13, 2004).]
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Re: my latest situation.... 13 Sep 2004 17:09 #21978

  • BECKWITH1
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Depending upon the studio that the print comes from we either call Technicolor or our transit company for a replacement print. Sounds like we do it at about the same time on Thursday except that we haven't run the print - just visually inspected and made the determination that it won't run on our equipment in an acceptable manner for our customers. Generally, our transit company can go to the warehouse and get another print for us but we rarely have problems with prints using their service. Most of our rejected prints are handled by Technicolor.

When you talk with Technicolor it is important to state upfront that it is not possible to run the print. They will then set about finding you a new one - not just the bad reels. Of course you will be sitting around most of Thursday night waiting for them to call you back with a delivery time which will inevitably be about 1:00 or 2:00 a.m. However, this just comes with the territory of trying to get the best possible presentation for your customers. Lets just say that the 2nd print comes in and is also damaged. You call Technicolor for another print. This one might just barely make it in time for the Friday night show. Hopefully it is undamaged. If you still have not gotten a good print by this time. Run the best that you can put together. Make a note to yourself to send the film out at the end of the week.

We've never been billed for a print or shipping on a replacement. Wouldn't pay it anyway but we would certainly be fighting with Technicolor about that and it would probably take forever to resolve.
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Re: my latest situation.... 13 Sep 2004 17:54 #21979

  • Mike
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There is more than a ray of hope: there's a whole big sunny ending. Don't sweat the small stuff and don't get into a pee-pee match with someone who is being paid by the hour while you are not. Just forget about paying the charges: IF they ever show up. Laugh and tell your booker about it and let it dropp.

I threw a print of Gladiator off our too fast platter into a corner on opening night..... don't ask!.... and Dreamworks tried to charge me 4000.00! since there was no way we could untangle this thing in time to open and show..... it took 5 nights of un-Aliening the prints!

But to make a long story very short: we never paid......

Stay cheerful and laugh it off!

Michael Hurley
Impresario
Michael Hurley
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Re: my latest situation.... 14 Sep 2004 15:32 #21980

  • rodeojack
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The last I heard, the sad state of affairs is generally caused by stingy studios. The depots make their money by charging for a variety of "services". It could very well be that just opening up a can might be a chargeable "service".... but I was told that things like verifying reel-counts, leaders, leaders-spliced-to-right-reels, winding through the reel to verify condition... all the way to actually cleaning the film are itemized "services", which the studios can elect to pay for.

From what I was told, few studios pay for anything past making sure you sent all the reels back... and a couple don't even do that.

IF the industry wasn't being saturated with prints... and IF there was any long-term demand for the pictures post-first run (like there was back in the '60s), the studios might actually care.

However, except for the inconvenience to the exhibitor, the cost of shipping out a reel or two... or a print here and there is probably a whole lot less than paying the depots to open up every print when it comes back.
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Re: my latest situation.... 14 Sep 2004 18:43 #21981

  • outaframe
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JACK, back in the '60s when SOME of the distributors WERE paying for inspection "services," the VERY SAME problems were COMMONPLACE... I still have nightmares about some of the "inspected" prints I received back then!... The ONLY thing an inspection sticker guarantees is that someone put a sticker on the reel!...
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Re: my latest situation.... 15 Sep 2004 09:01 #21982

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The other side of this is doing your part when you damage a print. We usually include a note in the can about the damage and sometimes call TES as well. Hopefully, someone doing even a minimal inspection will read the note and replace the damaged reel(s).

It's always amusing to talk to someone who doesn't know how to handle a report of damage you caused. I guess "you're going to need to replace these reels" is a less common request than "we need a replacement."

The only time we've ever been charged to obtain a replacement was for a print of Lawrence of Arabia (from ETS) that had to be overnighted in from a depot in another city.
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Re: my latest situation.... 15 Sep 2004 23:03 #21983

  • rodeojack
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"back in the '60s when SOME of the distributors WERE paying for inspection "services," the VERY SAME problems were COMMONPLACE... The ONLY thing an inspection sticker guarantees is that someone put a sticker on the reel!"

Absolutely correct! I remember those days, too. Unfortunately, those problems were caused by lazy "inspectors" who figured out how to get away with it. Today, the studios don't order the inspections services, so the depots don't have to cheat.
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