Ok, Ok, I'll chime in on this topic. I never even knew about widescreen until I went to buy Seven on VHS. I noticed that there was two copies. I asked the guy behind the counter what widescreen was. Once he told me it was exactly the way I saw it in the theater I was hooked. BUT, I assumed that the girl I was dating at the time would hate widescreen so I purchased the P&S version.
When I took it home and told her about it, she said that widescreen sounded cool! I immediately took the copy back and bought the widescreen, and have bought widescreen ever since.
I never had a problem with OAR. I rented an OAR tape one day while in high school, saw the black bars, immediately deduced why they were there and promptly tuned them out. It wasn't until the end credits rolled that I even remembered the movie was widescreen. In fact, I had to rewind the tape and hit play to verify that the movie was widescreen and not just the credits. This was in a well lighted room (midday) on a 20" TV.
I'm always mystified that so many people have such a difficult time grasping the concept. On the other hand, I've always been really, really good at math and excelled in geometry in particular. The concept that a rectangle can't fit in a square (without chopping the sides or shrinking the rectangle) has never really been troublesome for me. Nor am I bothered by those who can't seem to grasp such a simple and obvious (to me at least) concept.
I'm with you, Mark, it's not a very difficult concept.
I can't remember ever having noticed the "black bars" for the first time. In my part of the world as far back as I can remember (early-middle 80s) movies on TV would sometimes (not always) be presented in OAR - with "bars". Needless to say, I've never been bothered by the "bars". But it wasn't until about 1995 that I understood that movies were frequently P&S'ed and that these versions should therefore be avoided like the plague.
I collect Japanese Animation LaserDsics, and there's really only one which has an OAR/MAR issue. Project A-Ko exists in two versions: 5:3 as seen in theatre, and 4:3 open matte. So, since each frame was drawn by hand under supervision of the director, which aspect ratio is correct?
As annoying as the black bars can be [specifically on 8:3 films -- what actually bothers me is the loss of half the screen height -- lines of resolution -- not the bars per se], what you see in a cropped film is worse. The Robe cropped is stomach-turning.
I believe that Manhattan was one of the earliest widescreen video releases, so I guess we need to knight Woody Allen.
Otherwise, you really have to tip the hat to The Criterion Collection and their efforts to present laserdiscs in "Videoscope"...aka widescreen.
I don't worry about OAR or MAR, but I prefer widescreen. When Remo Williams was released non-widescreen / open matte, I did not hesitate to buy it. It was not available any other way, and at under $10, the price was right.
Several of the early 1997 DVD releases were not widescreen. My Fellow Americans was on of them; Purple Rain; The Bodyguard; Driving Miss Daisy. I had them because there was nothing else available in the entire DVD format!
And I've picked up a few movies in full-screen to show off 4x3 monitors to their full extent...A.I. comes to mind. I also wanted to see how my LCD computer display looked with eye candy, so I picked up one of those $10 copies of Star Wars Ep. II.
But these are a handful of movies (a fraction of a percentage) in a collection that is dominated by widescreen and original aspect ratio.
I used to not really care if it was P&S or widescreen, in the VHS era. I knew the theory behind P&S, but didn't care. I didn't realize then how much of a 2.35:1 movie was hacked out of the frame. But, then again, I never bought a single VHS (I only rented). Somehow I couldn't see buying an altered copy of a movie, in a fragile format that the VCR might munch on and leave useless. Up until about 4 years ago when we got the PS2.
We started buying DVDs when the got the PS2. I think my first one was Clerks: Special Edition. Now I have about 60 movies, 5 seasons of B5 on DVD, and about 100 anime DVDs. And I can't stand P&S. I saw someone watching P&S Fellowship at work on the computer monitor and almost went over and asked where the rest of my favorite movie was.
When I was buying LDs, if it wasn't available OAR and it was something I had to own, I'd buy the P&S version. I had the Pee wee's Big Adventure that was open matte which gave away the "endless chain" and "road signs at night" jokes. I thought they were being post modern. I confess I miss seeing that stuff now that I have the OAR DVD. Sigh.