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Theater Screen Masking (or lack thereof)... (1 Viewer)

Rich Vincent

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Really difficult to understand the reason for this, especially if masking is being removed. As a career theatre person (retired) I was always taught that you never, ever reveal bare screen, just like never broadcasting dead air in radio or tv. (Although curtainless screens override that consideration!) That would include correctly masking the image, whose function is actually to trim a clean line at the edge of the image. Changing masking was always easily done for automation with cue tape. All I can think of is digital not being able to send a cue. Truly, this is something everyone should complain about to the chain's corporate offices about (NOT the local manager, whose hands are likely tied).
 

Worth

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I'm old enough to remember when the need for masking first came in - Cinemascope in the early 1950s. I remember the sound of the masking being adjusted as it ran along its track. In Melbourne, AU, I would guess that masking is gone in most cinemas. Even worse, I believe that there are only two cinemas left (out of about a dozen or more) that run real film. The others run video projectors.
What would be the point? No new film prints are being struck and there are fewer and fewer existing ones in decent condition.
 

Josh Steinberg

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So I went back to the theaters for the first time and visited a local AMC that I had been patronizing ever since it first opened in 1990 as a Cineplex Odeon when I was a kid. It had all of the automated masking, though more than once I remember it getting stuck during the preshow cues and having to get up to find a manager. I wonder how many 12 year olds did that. Anyways… When Cineplex went under as a chain, the theater became independent but kept the layout and designs so you’d really never know anything changed. At some point in the past few years, when I wasn’t living in the area, AMC took it over. This was my first visit under AMC’s management.

The masking was indeed gone.

But I don’t think it was as simple as removing it for the sake of removing it. The auditoriums are all the same sizes as when it first opened, but they redid the screens and made them larger, now extending the entirely of the width of the wall, where in the past the screens had been centered in the wall with a fair amount of unused real estate on all four sides covered by curtains.

So it looks like AMC took out the old screens and masking system and put in new, larger screens, and didn’t go through the trouble of getting a new masking system.

I wish they had, but I can see how it happened that they didn’t. At least it wasn’t as cut and dried as “let’s take it out just cause.”
 

Josh Steinberg

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They’re designed not to have masking so it doesn’t really come up. The issue at hand in this thread is theaters that used to have masking and eliminated it for arbitrary reasons. Premium formats that were conceived from the beginning not to have masking as a design choice aren’t really what we’re talking about.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I have never seen masking used in an IMAX cinema -yet nobody seems to complain about it.

They’re designed not to have masking so it doesn’t really come up. The issue at hand in this thread is theaters that used to have masking and eliminated it for arbitrary reasons. Premium formats that were conceived from the beginning not to have masking as a design choice aren’t really what we’re talking about.

But if people think it's a major distraction to see unmasked movies at "regular" screens, then shouldn't it be an issue on IMAX screens as well?

Maybe it's 30 years of letterboxing at home that did it, but I don't even notice "unmasked" screens anymore.

I'd prefer masking, but I'm so used to watching images with "dead space" at the top/bottom that it's not a distraction for me...
 

Colin Jacobson

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When I saw Conjuring 3 I had to go out to the lobby to get someone to open up the masking, as it was a scope film and the screen was set up for 1.85. I'm not sure how long it had been that way; if people had just watched the film bleeding over on both sides like that in previous shows. I briefly considered just watching it that way, but decided it would bug me too much. Turns out it was just a pull cord on one side of the screen that I could have fixed myself.

It occasionally amazes me how many people will accept badly flawed movie presentations.

I remember that my then-girlfriend and I went to see the 1998 "Psycho" its opening weekend, and there were huge green scratches evident in the print. No one else seemed to notice/care.

We told the manager and they said that another showing would start soon so we could go to that one instead.

We did - more scratches!

After that, we bailed and saw something else instead.

Given how awful the movie was, those scratches did us a favor! :D

Anyway, apparently we were the only people annoyed by the scratches - and by "we", I probably mean "me", as I'm not sure she would've left the screenings if I didn't voice my discontent...
 

Bryan Tuck

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Bumping this for an update. I've been back to the AMC Burbank 16 a few times now, and they are actually still actively masking their screens (aside from the Prime, Dolby Cinema, and IMAX screens, of course). And they've even removed the 3D lens from at least one of the projectors that used to keep it on for 2D films.

Very nice to see all this, though of course, it could simply be a current local management decision that could be abandoned at any time.

I have never seen masking used in an IMAX cinema -yet nobody seems to complain about it.

I can only speak for myself, but IMAX often uses a multi-aspect ratio presentation. Knowing that, I guess it's more acceptable that they were designed that way (though masking would still be nice for consistent-2.35 films).

It occasionally amazes me how many people will accept badly flawed movie presentations.

I remember that my then-girlfriend and I went to see the 1998 "Psycho" its opening weekend, and there were huge green scratches evident in the print. No one else seemed to notice/care.

We told the manager and they said that another showing would start soon so we could go to that one instead.

We did - more scratches!

After that, we bailed and saw something else instead.

Given how awful the movie was, those scratches did us a favor! :D

Anyway, apparently we were the only people annoyed by the scratches - and by "we", I probably mean "me", as I'm not sure she would've left the screenings if I didn't voice my discontent...

Years ago, I worked at a small theater in Texas, and if we had scratched prints, we would usually get some complaints about it (as well we should have).

I think sometimes people accept things simply because they're not sure how to bring up the issue. The 3D lens problem is a prime example; people probably have some sense that the picture is a little too dim, but they don't know what's causing it, so they don't complain.
 

Colin Jacobson

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I've always given IMAX a pass on this, as their cinemas were never designed with the intention of showing conventional films.

Sure, they were - the "LIEMAX" screens, at least. Those are in regular multiplexes and play tons of "conventional films" - always have.

And I suspect some "real IMAX" screens have been built over the last 15 years or so - whenever it started to become common for "real IMAX" to run standard feature films and not the usual IMAX-specific documentaries.
 

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