An Open Letter to Theatre Owners, by Daniel Bergamini
This is an open letter to movie theatre owners across North America. My main target is chains, and I am leaving the small scale art-house theatres out of it. Not because they do not have problems, but rather because, for the most part, their problems are overshadowed by the fantastic films they play and the geek-centric programming they focus on. The issues I will be discussing are those that chains can and should be fixing, but due to a myriad of reasons, won’t. Whether it is greed, ineptitude or simply laziness, the largest problems that plague the film-going experience are ones that theatres could fix easily and simply.
Complaining about the movie-going experience is nothing original or unique and I have been guilty of doing so on many occasions. For years, the most common complaints have largely stemmed from having to share the cinema with rude patrons, whose lack of respect for those around them leads to awful cinema going experiences for all. This, however, is not what I will be writing about. Instead, it is something even more worrisome. As of late, many online film critics and writers have been discussing the disturbing trend of not projecting films at the proper brightness, at times keeping the bulbs only half-lit. This is not a new issue. It is something that has been going on for years, in a pathetic and misguided attempt to save money. And this, sadly, is only one of the many problems which prevent film-viewing at major chains from being a pleasant and possibly fantastic experience.
While texting and talking are not directly caused by the theatre management, it is also the theatre’s responsibility to at least put effort into stopping this annoying and distracting act. Whether it be an employee who discreetly checks on each theatre periodically or boosting the audio, this is not a problem that should be as rampant as it currently is. And the tiny effort that the theatre does put into stopping it has become so miniscule it has become a slap in the face to anyone who is bothered by texting. It wasn’t until I saw a film last year that I realized the cellphone ads which played before the films were actually the theatre’s attempt at keeping us from using our phones during the film. Instead of being a comical ad that asks the audience to be courteous, or even just a real plea from the theatre to keep in mind the others around you, the current attempt is simply a half-hearted money grab.
It is the previously mentioned lighting issue that also threatens to continue to ruin great films for me. It seems to be a common practice at most large theatre chains to keep the bulbs at only half the brightness, in hopes to make them last longer. Even without the recent exposés on the issue, it only takes a mild film fan to realize how dim the screenings are. Films set at night can look like they were lit by the worst of cinematographers, when in reality, they have been expertly shot. Even bright films can lose much of their vibrancy and richness when not shown at the proper brightness. Another issue has come up recently with the introduction of digital projectors in the majority of movie theatres. Digital projectors can give lead to some beautifully screened films, but as they are commonly used for 3D screenings, the 3D lens remains on while showing 2D films. This can diminish the brightness of a screening by more than half of what it should be.
Theatres may think that the average film goer doesn’t know the difference or realize the change. However, the recent complaints I have been hearing certainly tell a different story. Most may not realize it is not the film’s fault but rather the theatre’s. That is, however, certainly no excuse. As movie theatre owners complain and publicly quiver at the sign of any new option to seeing films at the cineplex, they do nothing to try to improve the movie theatre experience. This is not OK, and yet, with very little other option, we are forced to sit there through the talking and the dimly lit screenings. It is time we ask them to take up the challenge to keep our business.
A Film Fan