It’s absolutely terrible. When I went to see the the new Woody Allen movie last week, I noticed as soon as the previews that the projection was out of focus. (The previous ads and trash were projected with something else, and looked just fine. Irony. Whatever.) I went out side to complain, which I don’t think I’ve ever done before. I found a guy in the lobby with a suit and a gold name tag, and explained the problem. He said he’d have them refocus, and got on his walkie talkie as I hustled back to my seat.
A few more previews rolled by, with no change. I figure, maybe they’re going to fix it when the main feature starts? Now, Midnight in Paris opens with a bunch of static shots of the city, and of course still shots are where you can the focus most clearly. And it was just terrible. Anyway, to make a long story short, I went out and complained to the same guy again, and it still wasn’t fixed. The movie was watchable, but it sure detracted from it. I’m going to be keeping an eye on Regal Cinema South Beach in the future (this was in auditorium #4), and I’m not putting up with that crap again.
I was reminded of this when I read Roger Ebert’s column about crappy movie projection yesterday. His biggest complaint is how dim many movies look today. Turns out the culprit is the misuse of the Sony 3D projector (pictured above). The double lens is supposed to be attached only for 3D movies, but many theaters leave it on for all features, because it’s a pain for them to swap in and out. The thing is, this lens blocks 50% of the light even for 2D movies. You’re supposed to look for a double beam of light, one stacked on top of the other. If you see that, you’re being shown an inferior picture, and you should complain. (More information here from a conscientious theater operator.)
It’s all pretty crazy given how expensive movies are, and how easy they are to pirate. Theaters should be trying to disincentivize people from piracy by providing the best possible experience, yet they seem to be moving in the direction of doing the exact opposite.
The good news in all this is that, at least here in Miami, a number of new independent cinemas have cropped up. There’s the upgraded and moved Miami Beach Cinematheque, Miami-Dade’s Tower Theater, and the Coral Gables Art Cinema. (I saw the Herzog 3D movie there a few weeks ago, so I’m going to keep an eye on them with that too. But presumably “Art Cinema” in the title = people who care about movies.) Luckily these places show a lot more of the films I actually want to see, and while the Regal South Beach is pretty good about keeping the small-audience features in rotation, one more experience like the one with Midnight in Paris and I’m not going back.