Have you ever gone to the local cineplex, the one with the state-of-the-art, digital auditoriums — and watched a movie whose images are dim, dark and lacking color? That apparently has happened one too many times to Boston Globe reviewer Ty Burr, who wrote about this issue over the weekend and shed some light on what seems to be a growing problem. What he discovered was this: Many exhibition chains are using 4K projectors from Sony to run their digital prints. These projectors require a special lens when showing 3D movies that frequently isn’t removed by projectionists when a 2D print is shown, essentially resulting in a filter that one of Burr’s sources says can take away as much as 85% of the light that reaches the screen. The problem is bad enough in Boston to have riled director Peter Farrelly, who earlier this year attended a promotional screening of his film Hall Pass. “I walked into the room and I could barely see, and my stomach dropped,’’ the filmmaker told the Globe. “The first screening looked spectacular and the second was so dark, it was daytime versus nighttime. If they’re doing this for a big screening, I can’t imagine what they do for regular customers. That’s no way to see a movie.”
The story is staring to gain traction in film circles, but what people should be talking about is the dismissive attitudes of the companies involved that Burr discovered when writing his story:
Though the issue is widespread, affecting screenings at AMC, National Amusements, and Regal cinemas, executives at all these major movie theater chains, and at the corporate offices of the projector’s manufacturer, have refused to directly acknowledge or comment on how and why it’s happening. Asked where his company stands on the matter, Dan Huerta, vice president of sight and sound for AMC, the second-biggest chain in the US, said only that “We don’t really have any official or unofficial policy to not change the lens.’’
After multiple requests, Sony declined through a spokesman to respond to questions about its digital projection equipment. Executives at the major theatrical chains are equally unwilling to discuss the matter. When contacted for this article, a spokesman for Regal, the nation’s largest multiplex operator, e-mailed the following statement: “Patron response has been overwhelmingly positive toward digital cinema and all of the associated entertainment options provided by this technology.”
You’d think the exhibition industry would be especially interested in keeping its patrons happy as there hasn’t been much to cheer about so far this year, as the box office data has shown for months. Our guess is that will change as this report gets around.