Life struck me as several cuts above “meh” but never made me jump out of my seat.
Although I have long since given up hope when it comes to the quality of the movie-going experience in the US (as well as elsewhere), I was encouraged t read Mr. Williamson's letter of complaint to IMAX. As one of the last bastions of a high-quality film-going experience, it is truly sad to see the IMAX Corporation giving in to current market forces. (Mike Todd would be rolling in his grave).
As a working film professional, I understand the economics of the decision to move from 70mm print distribution, which is horrifically expensive, to digital projection. However, in my mind, it is just one more reason to stay home and watch the same sub-standard quality on my widescreen TV, with all the usual lousy source material (haphazard transfers, compression artifacts, etc).
Given the quality of what most of the film-going public has become used to, it is somewhat understandable that they think that what passes for first-run exhibition these days is the norm, and there is no reason to complain unless things get really bad (like, no picture at all).
It is somewhat sad the majority of theatergoers will never have the opportunity to experience what film is capable of. Unless you have seen a film exhibited at one of the few well maintained theaters still left, by projectionists who actually care about the films they are showing (and yes, they are out there), you will never know what the medium is capable of.
While I still go out and ask for my money back if I have to sit through something which is truly egregious, I must admit the exercise has become old. Unfortunately, it is the only thing that theater owners will respond to.
When I read about the decline of theater attendance, I have to squarely place much of the blame on theater owners, who refuse maintain their equipment and premises in at least an acceptable condition. (Yes, having films that people actually want to see helps as well, although that is part of a much longer discussion).
Keep 'em honest, and don't stop complaining!
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