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Where do you think cinema goes from here? (1 Viewer)

Jesse Skeen

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I worked in the theater business for 10 years and had hoped to stay in it for life, but I left it in 2001 (20 years ago, how time flies!) because I just didn't like the direction it was heading and there was little I could do about it.

I haven't found digital presentations to be as good as properly-done film, but that was a rarity when film was common. I thought that digital would at least get rid of the technical problems, but it's just introduced new ones. I've noticed both 3D and 2D digital showings have been quite dark; when I ran film we took pride in how bright the picture was. Digital has crippled the scope format also- the frame is natively 1.85 and scope is letterboxed in it, just like video. On film scope used anamorphic lenses. The past 20 or so years has also produced theaters with screens in the wrong ratio- those screens are also natively 1.85 so scope movies appear smaller when they should appear bigger and wider. (IMAX touting "more image" in some movies shown in 1.85 or 4x3 just had me shaking my head.) As if that couldn't get any worse, many new theaters don't even have masking to cover up the unused screen space, so you're watching movies letterboxed just like at home. Why should I go out for that? Of course since the 80s I've seen that many theater screens are simply too SMALL as well.

I thought the closure during the pandemic would have had theaters reassessing a few things and stepping up their game, but that hasn't been the case from what I've heard (I've already given up on all the theaters in my area- the last straw was one of them having a dead front left speaker for over TWO YEARS with nobody noticing. I wouldn't have let that go for more than a day on my watch!) They're still raising prices, showing annoying pre-movie commercials and I've heard of botched presentations in many online discussions. Many theaters have reduced or eliminated 3D showings (3D was something that would have gotten me back into theaters if it had been done properly), rather than getting rid of the upcharges for it that people are refusing to pay, and the remaining showings have been overly dark, mistakenly shown in 2D or in some cases even had the left and right images flipped- I read a comment from someone who had to turn their 3D glasses upside down to see it properly, but nobody else in the audience figured that out and likely left disliking 3D even more.

The big theater chains simply don't care about delivering a quality experience, even with the added threat of movies being available at home at the same time. I always took pride in putting on the best possible presentation even for the worst movies, hopefully making people wanting to come back no matter what was showing. Most of those running the business though are just digging their own grave. The general public's apathy has let them get away with it mostly, but now it seems their lack of showmanship is catching up with them.
 

Mysto

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I worked in the theater business for 10 years and had hoped to stay in it for life, but I left it in 2001 (20 years ago, how time flies!) because I just didn't like the direction it was heading and there was little I could do about it.

I haven't found digital presentations to be as good as properly-done film, but that was a rarity when film was common. I thought that digital would at least get rid of the technical problems, but it's just introduced new ones. I've noticed both 3D and 2D digital showings have been quite dark; when I ran film we took pride in how bright the picture was. Digital has crippled the scope format also- the frame is natively 1.85 and scope is letterboxed in it, just like video. On film scope used anamorphic lenses. The past 20 or so years has also produced theaters with screens in the wrong ratio- those screens are also natively 1.85 so scope movies appear smaller when they should appear bigger and wider. (IMAX touting "more image" in some movies shown in 1.85 or 4x3 just had me shaking my head.) As if that couldn't get any worse, many new theaters don't even have masking to cover up the unused screen space, so you're watching movies letterboxed just like at home. Why should I go out for that? Of course since the 80s I've seen that many theater screens are simply too SMALL as well.

I thought the closure during the pandemic would have had theaters reassessing a few things and stepping up their game, but that hasn't been the case from what I've heard (I've already given up on all the theaters in my area- the last straw was one of them having a dead front left speaker for over TWO YEARS with nobody noticing. I wouldn't have let that go for more than a day on my watch!) They're still raising prices, showing annoying pre-movie commercials and I've heard of botched presentations in many online discussions. Many theaters have reduced or eliminated 3D showings (3D was something that would have gotten me back into theaters if it had been done properly), rather than getting rid of the upcharges for it that people are refusing to pay, and the remaining showings have been overly dark, mistakenly shown in 2D or in some cases even had the left and right images flipped- I read a comment from someone who had to turn their 3D glasses upside down to see it properly, but nobody else in the audience figured that out and likely left disliking 3D even more.

The big theater chains simply don't care about delivering a quality experience, even with the added threat of movies being available at home at the same time. I always took pride in putting on the best possible presentation even for the worst movies, hopefully making people wanting to come back no matter what was showing. Most of those running the business though are just digging their own grave. The general public's apathy has let them get away with it mostly, but now it seems their lack of showmanship is catching up with them.
When theaters focus on content rather than experience they will lose. Content is everywhere - a great theater experience can only happen in a great theater.

Great post with a lot of insights. Thanks.
 

Reggie W

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I worked in the theater business for 10 years and had hoped to stay in it for life, but I left it in 2001 (20 years ago, how time flies!) because I just didn't like the direction it was heading and there was little I could do about it.

I haven't found digital presentations to be as good as properly-done film, but that was a rarity when film was common. I thought that digital would at least get rid of the technical problems, but it's just introduced new ones. I've noticed both 3D and 2D digital showings have been quite dark; when I ran film we took pride in how bright the picture was. Digital has crippled the scope format also- the frame is natively 1.85 and scope is letterboxed in it, just like video. On film scope used anamorphic lenses. The past 20 or so years has also produced theaters with screens in the wrong ratio- those screens are also natively 1.85 so scope movies appear smaller when they should appear bigger and wider. (IMAX touting "more image" in some movies shown in 1.85 or 4x3 just had me shaking my head.) As if that couldn't get any worse, many new theaters don't even have masking to cover up the unused screen space, so you're watching movies letterboxed just like at home. Why should I go out for that? Of course since the 80s I've seen that many theater screens are simply too SMALL as well.

I thought the closure during the pandemic would have had theaters reassessing a few things and stepping up their game, but that hasn't been the case from what I've heard (I've already given up on all the theaters in my area- the last straw was one of them having a dead front left speaker for over TWO YEARS with nobody noticing. I wouldn't have let that go for more than a day on my watch!) They're still raising prices, showing annoying pre-movie commercials and I've heard of botched presentations in many online discussions. Many theaters have reduced or eliminated 3D showings (3D was something that would have gotten me back into theaters if it had been done properly), rather than getting rid of the upcharges for it that people are refusing to pay, and the remaining showings have been overly dark, mistakenly shown in 2D or in some cases even had the left and right images flipped- I read a comment from someone who had to turn their 3D glasses upside down to see it properly, but nobody else in the audience figured that out and likely left disliking 3D even more.

The big theater chains simply don't care about delivering a quality experience, even with the added threat of movies being available at home at the same time. I always took pride in putting on the best possible presentation even for the worst movies, hopefully making people wanting to come back no matter what was showing. Most of those running the business though are just digging their own grave. The general public's apathy has let them get away with it mostly, but now it seems their lack of showmanship is catching up with them.

I honestly would think that these are the kind of theaters that will end up closing due to the lack of business during this pandemic. I mean in cases like this you can have a better showing at home than going to a cinema where the picture is too dark, the sound is not right, or worse broken. That kind of cinema should go away.

I think I have been lucky, in that most of my cinema experiences have been good and the comfort, options, and cleanliness level of theaters has skyrocketed over these last 5 years or so. I mean most of my really bad cinema experiences were in the 1970s or 1980s where you would go in and sit in dirty seats, your feet would stick to the floor, and often the seating would be in various states of disrepair.

The new theaters I have been to or the older single screen theaters that were rehabbed are now always clean, ridiculously comfortable, and have a wide range of food and drink options. In fact in these places that have the big electric recliners and serve alcohol the greatest danger for me is I might fall asleep.

I don't encounter practically any rudeness or people using cell phones but that may have to do with what I actually end up going to see. I don't go to see most of the big superhero or franchise stuff. It is typically things like The Green Knight, or Wes or Paul Anderson pictures, or something like that. I think these films probably attract a more cinephile audience that perhaps is better behaved.

My last strange, what I would call rude, cinema experience was at Uncut Gems. A German or Austrian guy and his girlfriend were drinking heavily during the show. My guess was they arrived drunk and just kept going. He talked back at the screen the whole time, laughing loudly as if it was a full blown comedy, and his drunk girlfriend fell on top of me on her way back from the ladies room and it took at least a minute and a half of wild groping to get her back on her feet. Thankfully she was attractive but totally plastered. He laughed hysterically watching this, never got up to help, but of course did offer to buy me a drink once I got her upright again. I declined and told him if he wanted to do me a favor he could be a bit more quiet for the rest of the show. I went back and saw the picture again because that experience kind of messed up what I felt was an excellent film.
 

Jesse Skeen

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Uncut Gems was actually the last movie I saw at a theater, at the Regal I had left years ago due to disagreements but staff and management have likely turned over many times since then. (Paid to see Star Wars in 4DX which was an adequate but not great presentation, then snuck into Uncut Gems afterwards- they really shouldn’t show the starting times right above the entrances if they don’t want people to theater hop!) Movie was 2.35 but letterboxed on a 1.85 screen with no masking (it was equipped with top and bottom masking but Regal has made it “policy” not to use it anymore), and lights never went fully down (when I worked there I was discouraged from having them go down all the way for “safety” reasons.) Pretty much confirmed my belief that the theatrical experience is dead.
 

TravisR

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I think I have been lucky, in that most of my cinema experiences have been good and the comfort, options, and cleanliness level of theaters has skyrocketed over these last 5 years or so. I mean most of my really bad cinema experiences were in the 1970s or 1980s where you would go in and sit in dirty seats, your feet would stick to the floor, and often the seating would be in various states of disrepair.

The new theaters I have been to or the older single screen theaters that were rehabbed are now always clean, ridiculously comfortable, and have a wide range of food and drink options.
I think the smartest thing that chain theaters have done over the past 5-ish years is to focus on seating comfort and serving more than just popcorn and candy because based on my anecdotal experience, there are always more people at theaters that have nicer seating. And given that all the chain theaters and independents in my area have followed suit in terms of upgrading their seating, it's a safe bet that I'm right. I used to be perfectly fine with a half-busted old theater seat but after using recliners, I can't go back to having my legs pressed right up against the seat in front of me (I'm six foot one and the world is not built for my staggeringly normal height).

None of that is to say that the presentation of the movie should be poor but I think the amenities are just as important because the nicest screen in town isn't going to draw a mainstream crowd if you don't have seats where people are comfortable.
 
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Clinton McClure

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I was an avid theater goer in the mid-late 90s but I slowed down quite a bit in the early 2000s before finally stopping completely some time ago. I think the last movie I saw in the theater was Deadpool and that was 5 years ago. I stopped going because of rude people with cellphones and screaming kids. I finally got to the point where I would rather wait a few months and watch whatever new release at home with no distractions than have the house lights go down and the auditorium stay almost as brightly lit from all the freaking cell phones or listen to a screaming baby for 2 hours.
 

ManW_TheUncool

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I went to a ScreenX screening of Black Widow... and what's up w/ all the neon exit signs and lights staying on brightly w/ the way that presentation is supposed to work???

Those issues already downgraded the experience for regular screening/format before this, but it's just ridiculous for ScreenX. Very underwhelming to say the least...

_Man_
 

Jesse Skeen

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It seems like lots of people in charge of theaters don't actually watch movies there- One theater I worked at for many years, I'm pretty sure the general manager never watched any movies. Design flaws like lights that shine onto the screen or are overly distracting are another thing that keep me out of theaters.

They have been making the seating more comfortable, but at what cost? Speaking of distracting lights, I went to one theater that had bright blue buttons on the sides of the recliners to adjust them, and it was so distracting I had to cover it up. I should've brought some black tape and covered it permanently. Recliners are nice but they take up more space than regular seats and thus reduce seating capacity. Some auditoriums only have about 50 seats, which is ridiculous- if only a handful of people show up, it's going to feel crowded and if a good number of people actually come then the show will sell out fast and lots will leave disappointed. That wasn't as big a problem at theaters that had close to 1000 seats!
 

Josh Steinberg

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Theaters have reduced capacity precisely because it’s not needed the overwhelming majority of the time. I forget the exact number but AMC in a pre-pandemic earnings call said that they sell something on average like 9 tickets a day per auditorium.

For the half dozen times a year a giant tentpole opens up, they can increase capacity by putting it on most or all screens in the complex.

Better seating allows both for higher prices and encourages fans of the theatrical experience to return. Dated seating that’s not comfortable does not.

The average person attends theaters 1.5 times a year. Playing exclusively to the crowd that will only come once a year no matter what isn’t a good business strategy because no amount of improvements or changes is going to alter the amount of times that group attends. The better strategy is to focus on the smaller group of repeat visitors and make changes that will encourage their loyalty in the face of a plethora of other entertainment options. That’s the group of customers that are necessary for longterm survival. And that’s the group that wants a better and more comfortable experience and are willing to pay more for it.
 

Reggie W

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I wish the destination of these threads didn’t always take the inevitable detour into the territory of “I don’t care for this movie, therefore movies aren’t good anymore and audiences don’t have taste.”

I don't see anybody saying those things in this thread. I don't recall anybody being critical of others taste in pictures as we all know that is subjective and so does not matter to the discussion.
 

Reggie W

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Here is an interesting discussion that flows with this thread, click bait title but the discussion is good. I had to look up who Chris Gore is as I had never heard of him.

 

Reggie W

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(Paid to see Star Wars in 4DX which was an adequate but not great presentation, then snuck into Uncut Gems afterwards- they really shouldn’t show the starting times right above the entrances if they don’t want people to theater hop!)

So, one of the funny things about this is people that do this intentionally to support the smaller pictures. They buy a ticket to Uncut Gems to support that film while sneaking into Star Wars or name your blockbuster instead. This is all the more difficult now because at least where I see movies the seating is almost always assigned. You can't just stroll in and take a seat because that seat could very well be sold.
 

Reggie W

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And one more Chris Gore video that made me laugh because the woman interviewing him talks about Staying Alive, the sequel to Saturday Night Fever, that she obviously loves and thinks is a great film. I think Mr. Gore wants to crack up but he really does not say much except that he'd like to forget the picture. She seems stunned and says "It's that bad?" obviously not aware that most people including fans of Saturday Night Fever thought it was a horrible picture. I can relate to her though because it was years after seeing Blade Runner that I found out there were people that thought it was a horrible film and that it was labelled a bomb. Ha!

 

TravisR

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Here is an interesting discussion that flows with this thread, click bait title but the discussion is good. I had to look up who Chris Gore is as I had never heard of him.

Full disclosure: I've hated that dickhead for decades now so clearly I'm biased. :laugh: He was editor or a writer at Film Threat magazine back in the 90's and he was basically the stereotypical obnoxious indie rock guy who hates everything popular because he wants to be shocking or an iconoclast, or far worse, the guy who likes a band until they get popular and then he says they sold out and suck now because they committed the sin of gaining an audience. That being said, I stopped watching this video as soon as he started whining about the new Star Wars movies because this is the same guy who, in the 90's, had an article saying that Return Of The Jedi was awful and eventually, he hated the Star Wars prequels. If you haven't liked a Star Wars movie in 41 years, they just aren't for you!
 

Reggie W

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Full disclosure: I've hated that dickhead for decades now so clearly I'm biased. :laugh: He was editor or a writer at Film Threat magazine back in the 90's and he was basically the stereotypical obnoxious indie rock guy who hates everything popular because he wants to be shocking or an iconoclast, or far worse, the guy who likes a band until they get popular and then he says they sold out and suck now because they committed the sin of gaining an audience. That being said, I stopped listening to this video as soon as he started whining about the new Star Wars movies because this is the same guy who, in the 90's, had an article saying that Return Of The Jedi was awful and eventually, he hated the Star Wars prequels. If you haven't liked a Star Wars movie in 41 years, they just aren't for you!

I think he makes some funny valid points. It seemed to me like he was a huge Star Wars fan but yes, had his major gripes with the most recent trilogy. His big thing seems to be that you bring back Luke, Lea, and Han and then don't give them a scene or scenes together. I thought that was funny because I saw the first of the latest Star Wars trilogy with a group of huge Star Wars fans and man were they pissed about how things with Han turned out. They were all excited and waiting for the big reunion and everybody being together again to face down one last huge challenge and...nope, not happening.
 

Reggie W

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These videos (the first one someone directed me to which led to me watching the others) were my introduction to Chris Gore. I looked him up because so many videos are just made by fans and so I suspected he was just another fan, though maybe one that had a website where he writes about this stuff, to find out exactly who he was and why he would be being interviewed.

In the second video the woman doing the interview says something like half a million people watched or responded to the first video. Meaning somebody was paying attention to it.

She does set him up though because she asks him the question 'Do you think 99% of today's movies are garbage?" so he does not say that, it comes from her question. Then in the third video she says she thinks that Staying Alive is a great film/sequel. I laughed at that because I think Staying Alive is virtually unwatchable it is so bad.

Ha, perspective is everything.
 

TravisR

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I think he makes some funny valid points. It seemed to me like he was a huge Star Wars fan but yes, had his major gripes with the most recent trilogy. His big thing seems to be that you bring back Luke, Lea, and Han and then don't give them a scene or scenes together. I thought that was funny because I saw the first of the latest Star Wars trilogy with a group of huge Star Wars fans and man were they pissed about how things with Han turned out. They were all excited and waiting for the big reunion and everybody being together again to face down one last huge challenge and...nope, not happening.
I get his and many fans' desire to see those characters together again but they already made the movies where those characters had adventures together. This was a new set of movies focused on other characters. The biggest criticism of The Force Awakens was that it wasn't original (and I'm POSITIVE that Chris Gore said that) but Gore also wants that nostalgic trip down memory lane? You can't win with a lot of the fans. And I would have loved to see those characters together again too but trying to give the audience what they want is exactly the trap that The Rise Of Skywalker fell into.

Also, it's also worth noting that Han, Luke, and Leia spend very little time together as a trio in the original movies so the idea of getting them all together again was never that big of a deal to me.
 

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